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Castell Dinas Bran, Llangollen (Dinas Bran from Llangollen - I; Crow Castle)
Ferens Art Gallery: Hull Museums / The Bridgeman Art Library
Ascribed to Wilson
Castell Dinas Bran, Llangollen (Dinas Bran from Llangollen - I; Crow Castle)
c.1771 (undated)
Oil on canvas
56.7 x 76.9 cm (stretcher size)
22 3/8 x 30 1/4 in. (stetcher size)
KINCM 2005:6287
P165B
This view is from a point along the banks of the River Dee in Denbighshire, leading the eye towards Llangollen village and up to the western side of Castell Dinas Bran (Crow Castle). The village of Llangollen and surrounding mountains are illuminated from the right in the morning light. Figures in the right foreground pull in a fishing net, the far end of which is held by the two figures in the boat beyond. Water flows over the weir in the centre out towards the left.
Perhaps Arts Council 1947 but absent from the catalogue; Sheffield, Mappin Art Gallery, Country Life, 1986
Purchased June 1939 from C. Marshall Spink, 14, Lower Grosvenor Place, London S.W.1 'after cleaning by my restorer'
Unsigned; no inscription
[1] Upper left corner of stretcher, black paint: 'HULL 194'
[2] Upper part of vertical stretcher bar, pencil: '2'
[3] Upper left corner of frame, partly obscured, black paint: 'LL 194'
[1] Lower horizontal member of stretcher, centre, printed label, partly concealed by tape: C. MARSHALL SPINK | Drawings, Old Master Paintings, Water Colours
[2] Upper left corner of frame, old museum label
The western side of the ancient hill fortress of Dinas Bran (or Crow Castle as Wilson called it in 1771), overlooks the River Dee and Llangollen, with the 14th century bridge and the church tower of St Gollen downstream at the right. The large expanse of territory surrounding Dinas Bran belonged to Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, Baronet (1748-1789), paramount landlord of Denbighshire and one of the richest men in Britain. However, the castle, traditionally an old royal Welsh fortress, was on the property of Wynn's neighbours, the Myddeltons, from nearby Chirk Castle, who were Members of Parliament for the other Denbighshire seat. In actuality however, the fortress is hemmed in by hills and far less imposing than it appears here, where Wilson has much exaggerated its height. Otherwise most of the features, including the bridge, church tower of 1749, and the rocky outcrop in the river at the centre of the composition, are faithfully rendered and Wilson's location is still recognisable today.
D374 Castell Dinas Bran, Wales, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
D374A Dinas Bran from Llangollen National Museum Wales, Cardiff
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Claude Lorraine (1600-82), A River Landscape with Jacob, Laban and his Daughters, Petworth House, National Trust
Stylistically P165B does not sit well with Wilson while retaining enough typical features to merit its inclusion here. Compositionally it is much closer to P165A than to P165, the commission from Sir Watkin. Benjamin Booth recorded that Wilson painted P166 View near Wynnstay, on the spot from a tent and while it is very unlikely that such a large painting could have been executed en plein air it is possible that a smaller study was made in this way and that P165B is a similar exercise in preparation for P165 itself.
Inv. no. 194
Pennant 1784, vol. 1, pp. 297-98; Booth Notes Doc. 4, p. 2; Bury 1947, p. 66 & under pl. 45; WGC, p. 175, pl. 36a (version 2); C. Wright, From Medieval to Regency: Old Masters in the Collection of the Ferens Art Gallery, 2002, pp. 82-83, 245, cat. 352; J. Brewer, The Pleasures of the Imagination, 2nd ed., 2013, fig. 15.10, p. 480
Painted canvas size: 55 x 75.5 cm. Kate Lowry has noted: Frame: carved, gilt frame, probably postdates the painting. Painting viewed in store, out of its frame. The painted simple weave canvas retains some of its original turnover edges which are unprimed. This is indicates that the original canvas was purchased unprimed and was subsequently stretched and primed by the artist. It was not possible to ascertain the colour of the artist's priming as the overlying paint film is quite solid and opaque, however there is no doubt that a priming is present because the canvas weave texture is not visible beneath the painting. Wilson normally used a commercially-primed canvas with a pale grey or pink ground, but could perhaps have improvised with an unprimed canvas if this was painted on site as a preliminary study for P165, the later much larger painting of this subject. The original canvas has been glue lined onto a similar weave linen canvas and backed with another loose weave fabric. Attachment to the stretcher is by means of steel tacks through the lining turnovers. The original support is in good condition and attachment to the lining is good. The pine stretcher is not original and probably dates from the lining treatment. It consists of five members with square mortice joints and provision for keying out. All but one of the keys are present but not fixed in position.
The paint layer is characterised by a large admixture of white to all colours giving the painting an uncharacteristically pastel tone. However the brushwork in the foliage of the foreground tree against the sky at the upper right of the composition is not unlike Wilson's style, although there is no obvious reserve left for the tree against the sky such as is often found in Wilson's paintings. The figures hauling the fishing net are quite convincing; however the reeds at the far left and the cabbage-like leaves at the centre on the water's edge are not motifs commonly found in Wilson's works. The thick pale yellow of the centre sky is quite clumsily painted.
Under UV light some minor retouches are visible overlying the present varnish. The largest of these are in the foreground rocks in the river, at the left edge in the foreground above the reeds and in two places in the sky at far left and centre. Some very small retouches are also visible in the caps of the figures and in the branches of the main tree by way of reinforcement. Two other retouches underlying the present varnish are visible in the foliage of the main tree in normal light as slightly pinkish in tone. There are no major damages to the paint layer visible and the work is generally in very good condition.