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Llyn Cau, Cader Idris
Tate, London 2014
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Llyn Cau, Cader Idris
c.1765-67 (undated)
Oil on canvas
51.1 x 73 cm
20 1/8 x 28 5/8 in.
N05596
P153
This view is taken from the slopes of Mynydd Moel, about a mile from the volcanic lake of Llyn Cau, near the summit of Cader Idris mountain in Merionethshire, North Wales. The viewer stands about 500 feet above the level of the lake. To the left is the valley of Dysynni, bordered by the cliffs of Craig Goch, while in the distance is the Bay of Cardigan.
[?] R.A. 1774 (316 - A View of Caderidris Mountains in North Wales); Manchester 1857; Burlington Fine Arts Club 1910 (12); Agnew (Lord Haig's Appeal) 1924 (20); London 1925 (43); Manchester 1925 (35); Vienna 1927 (82); Brussels, Musée Moderne, Exposition retrospective de Peinture Anglaise, 1929 (199); London 1934 (186); Amsterdam 1936 (179); Plas Machynlleth 1937 (12); Paris, Louvre, La Peinture Anglaise, 1938 (153); London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982-83 (116); Tercentenary 2014 (78)
Almost certainly in the artist's possession at his death; probably Daniel Daulby Jr (d. 1797), Liverpool; his brother-in-law, William Roscoe (1753-1851), Liverpool; Roscoe sale, Liverpool (6th day) 28 September 1816 (136); bt William E. Esdaile (1758-1837); Esdaile sale, Christie's 24 March 1838 (49), bt Brown; c.1900 bt from Shepherd by Sir Edward Marsh; presented by him to the National Gallery on VE Day, 8 May 1945; transferred to Tate Gallery, 1955
Unsigned; no inscription
According to Anne Baxter: Primed as part of a larger sheet and cut down (cusping). Size layer between two layers of pigmented priming - also found on all paintings from 1760s and 1770s. The sky pigment is ultramarine (probably over Prussian blue). Many minor alterations to the horizon of the mountain, particularly notable on the right. The central mountain peak is described with streaks of green paint over beige underpainting.
[1] Exhibition of Retrospective British Art Brussel 1929 (48) / Edward Marsh Esq., CB.,CMG.,CVO, 5 Raymond Buildings WC1
[2] City of Manchester Art Gallery 1857
[3] Loan Exhibition of British Art, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 1936 (65 - lent Marsh)
[4] Royal Academy of Arts, Exhibition of British Art 1934 [lent Marsh] Edward Marsh Esq., C.B., C.M.G., C.V.O., 5, Raymond Buildings, Gray's Inn [...]
[5] Exhibition British Painting Paris 1938 [lent Marsh]
[6] Exhibition of British Art, Galleries of the Secession, Vienna, September - October 1927
Wilson was probably the first artist to paint this scene.The landscape includes an imaginary foreground and other invented features. The artist has heightened and regularised the precipice of Craig-y-Cau at the rear so as to create a simplified and more balanced composition.
E22 Edward & Michael Angelo Rooker, The Summit of Cader-Idris Mountain, The British Museum, London and other impressions
E90 George Cooke, Cader Idris, The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth / Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru
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David Solkin has commented that Wilson's departures from topographical fact allow him to wrest an inherent sense of order from a chaotic reality. As he also notes, the artist here presents Wales as a paradise of primitive simplicity, where mankind can retreat from the confusions of the modern world and contemplate the natural and divinely-ordained rhythms of life. The discovery of such rugged and uncultivated scenery was greatly stimulated by the taste for the Sublime: previously it would have seemed only raw and disorderly. Richard Wilson was one of the first to adapt the conventions of landscape painting to this sort of scenery, and was a major influence on later artists, including Turner.
Pennant 1784, vol. 2, p. 88; C. Johnson,English Painting, 1932, p. 124 (repr.); Commemorative Catalogue (106, pl. XXXXII); WGC, pp. 93, 171-72, pl. 31a; Davies 1959, pp. 107-8; G. Grigson, 'Cader Idris in Art and Actuality', Country Life, 12 May 1960, pp. 1038-40; Solkin 1982, pp. 223-24; Wilson and Europe 2014, p. 264
As early as 1783 a version of the painting was invoked by the naturalist and antiquary Thomas Pennant when describing the summit of Cader Idris: 'At a nearer distance I saw Craig Cay, a great rock, with a lake beneath, lodged in a deep hollow; possibly the crater on an antient Vulcano. This is so excellently expressed by the admirable pencil of my kinsman, Mr. Wilson, that I shall not attempt the description.'
Dimensions in frame: 67 x 89.5 x 7.3 cm. Plain weave canvas, medium thread, 10 x 13 thread count. Warm cream priming over all the canvas. Visual examination and sampling by Ann Baxter 1982 (see Techniques and Materials). Kate Lowry has noted: Glue-relined, original tacking edges missing. Warm cream coloured ground applied in two layers with intervening size layer. Ultramarine blue found in sky.