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Kew Gardens: The Pagoda and Palladian Bridge
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Kew Gardens: The Pagoda and Palladian Bridge
1761-62 (undated)
Oil on canvas
47.6 x 73 cm
18 3/4 x 28 3/4 in.
B1976.7.172
P109
The view is south at sunset towards Sir William Chambers's Pagoda, with his Palladian Bridge at the left, though it is not topographically accurate. The L-shaped lake in the foreground, later filled in, was reached by the bridge which was much further round to the left and both pagoda and bridge could not be seen in a single view. The figures and animals lend a colourful and pastoral atmosphere to this evening scene.
SA 1762 (131); Birmingham 1948-49 (11); London 1949 (10); London, Royal Academy, 1955-56, English Taste in the Eighteenth Century: From Baroque to Neo-Classic (234); Richmond 1963 (20); London 1964-65 (55); New Haven 1965 (224); New Haven 1977 (113); London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982-83 (98); Courtauld Gallery, London & National Museum, Stockholm, Sir William Chambers, Architect to George III, 1996-97 (67); Tercentenary 2014 (77); YCBA and Kensington Palace, London, Enlightened Princesses: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte, and the Shaping of the modern World, 2017 (19.14)
Dr John Wolcot ('Peter Pindar'); Richard Winstanley, sold Christie's, 16 March, 1850 (58), bt Holloway (£194-5-0); R.H. Winstanley, sold Christie's, 6 March 1858 (34), bt Farrar (210 guineas); Joseph Gillott, Birmingham; sold Christie's, 16 April 1872 (236), bt Colnaghi; Louis Huth, sold Christie's, 20 May 1905 (136 - Kew), bt Agnew (£84-0-0); Henry Yates Thompson; by descent to his nephew, Christopher Chancellor; sold Sotheby's, 20 February 1952 (81), bt John Mitchell and Son; Mrs. Geoffrey Hart, 1952; Edward Speelman, from whom acquired by Paul Mellon, 1962
Unsigned; no inscription
The foreground figures are elongated and unresolved. There are slapdash blocks and splashes of white in places and the water and land to the right are sketchy. Canalettesque spots of impasto are used over the middle ground for highlights. Note the white horse and groundsman lower right. There appears to be a tree with horizontal branches to the left of the horse and roller. Further to the left are two shepherds.
Kew was later to become a favourite retreat of King George III. In the 19th century it was much enlarged and became the famous Royal Botanic Gardens, open to the public. The exotic variety of classical, Moorish and Chinese temples and buildings which Chambers designed were placed within an enclosed garden with a perimeter walk by the side of the Thames. One of the few remaining and the most distinctive was the Chinese Pagoda, 163 feet high. The first major edifice in England in the Chinese style, it was built rapidly in six months and finished in the spring of 1762.
E53 William Birch after Wilson, A View in Kew Gardens,The British Museum
E53A William Birch after Wilson, A View in Kew Gardens, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, New Haven
E53B William Birch after Wilson, A View in Kew Gardens, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
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Pendant P108 The Ruined Arch in Kew Gardens, Private Collection, England
[1] Johan Jacob Schalch, The Gardens at Kew, 1759, Royal Collection Trust 403517
[2] Johan Jacob Schalch, The Gardens at Kews, c. 1760, Royal Collection Trust 403514
[3] E. Rooker after William Marlow, A View of the Wilderness with the Alhambra, the Pagoda and the Mosque, etching, c. 1763
The painting may have been based on the engraving or the original drawing, executed by 1762, by Chambers, who was a friend of Wilson. Wilson's representation is more pastoral than topographical, with the rural motifs of cattle, men in a punt and the horse pulling a roller, bathed in a warm sunset light. The tonality is similar to P86 The River Dee near Eaton Hall, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham, especially in the sky to the right. Benjamin Booth relates how Wilson 'painted a View of the Pagoda in Kew Gardens & the Bridge remark. for being put together in one Night by Torch Light by order of the King with the Intention of Surprising Ps Dowager therewith in the morg No Bridge having been there the Eveg before.' The juxtaposition of the Chinese pagoda and the Palladian bridge, both within the confines of a distinctly English landscape, presents the kind of enigma and surprising contrast in which emblematic gardeners and their public had come to delight.
Object ID: 381
Booth MS 4; Pilkington, Supplement by Peter Pindar; Wright 1824, pp. 103-4; Henry Yates Thompson, An Illustrated Catalogue of Pictures and Portraits now at 19 Portman Square, privately printed, London, 1921, p. 10; Bury 1947, pp. 25-26; Cooper 1948 2, pp. 346-48, fig. 11; WGC, pp. 49-50, 88-89, 179-80, pl. 41b; M.H. Grant, The 0ld English Landscape Painters, rev. ed. of Grant 1926-47, 1958, p. 132; Taylor 1963, cat. 20, pl. 209; Taylor 1964, cat. 55;Taylor 1965, cat. 224; Oliver Millar, Later Georgian Pictures in the Royal Collection, London, 1969, vol. 1, p. xvi; John Harris, The Artist and the Country House, 1979, p. 277, pl. 299; J. Harris and M. Snodin, eds, Sir William Chambers, Architect to George III, exh. cat., 1997, pp. 55-67, fig. 97; Solkin, 1982, pp. 19-20, 210-11; Cormack 1985, pp. 252-53; R. Strong, The Artist and the Garden, 2000, pp. 255-56; J. Gage, 'A Romantic Colourman: George Field and British Art', Walpole Society, vol. 63, 2001, p. 61 (no. 103), pl. 10; Wilson and Europe 2014, p. 263; J. Marschner et al., eds, Enlightened Princesses: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte, and the Shaping of the modern World, 1987, pp. 344-45
In an impressionistic way Wilson shows the dragons that decorated the angles of the roof but his pagoda seems to have only nine storeys, not ten, and he simplifies its shape and reduces the number of recessed windows. Wilson also painted the dome of Chambers's Mosque at Kew (now destroyed).
Discoloured varnish in the sky. Foam backboard. Normal weave canvas. Reserve left for trees on right and left. These seem to be built up organically but there are blue and sienna infillings on the tree at the left.