Few pictorial records of the Dorset countryside seem to have been made before the mid 18th century; until then landscape painting had not been taken seriously as an art form. It was around this time that travelling for pleasure or health reasons became fashionable with the upper and middle classes. An important factor as far as south Dorset was concerned – and in particular Weymouth – was the patronage of the Royal Family.
The man who probably did most to promote an interest in art in the area was John Love, a bookseller and publisher as well as being an accomplished artist. He was said to have been a skinny youth but later in life he confessed to deriving much pleasure from his food, which was apparent for all to see as he weighed a portly twenty-six stone. It was claimed, almost certainly falsely, that at one time he was the heaviest man in England.
As a young man he went to London and studied at the Royal Academy Schools lodging with William Ryland, who had been engraver to the King. But Ryland took a wrong turn in his career and was found guilty of forgery, a crime for which he was executed.
John Love returned to Weymouth where, during the 1780’s and until his death in 1793, he had a shop that incorporated a library and exhibition rooms; it was here that upcoming artists could display their work. Here Love wrote a Guide to Weymouth, which was published in 1788.
In 1790 Weymouth was a very popular resort and Love collaborated with James Fittler, the Court Engraver at the time, to publish a series of twelve prints entitled Love’s Picturesque Views of Weymouth; one set of these was recently offered for sale through a London auction house, fetching £1,200.