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Solitude - II
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. Paul Mellon Collection
Richard Wilson and Studio
Solitude - II
c.1762-1770 (undated)
Oil on canvas
142.1 x 210.1 cm
55 15/16 x 82 11/16 in.
1983.1.45
P115
An elderly bearded monk or hermit and his younger seated companion pass the day in study and contemplation by a calm pool. Their peace is contrasted with the shattered sculpture of a lion to the right, with one paw still resting on a globe. At its base reclines a half-naked hermit reading. In the background is a river, with an extensive view to mountains and a distant volcano.
National Gallery of Art Washington, 1986, Gifts to the Nation: Selected Acquisitions from the Collections of Mr and Mrs Paul Mellon (unnumbered checklist)
Perhaps Maddox Street Gallery, London 1828; Mr Gray, Ilkley, Yorkshire; 1839 bt Chaplin, from whom bt 1839 by Andrew Fountaine (1808-1874), Narford Hall, King's Lynn, Norfolk; by descent to Andrew Fountaine (b.1918); Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 23 June 1972 (57, repr.); bt Thomas Agnew & Sons for Paul Mellon, Upperville, Virginia, USA; given to the National Gallery of Art, 1983
From 1778 at latest other versions of this composition (P114 &c) were linked to James Thomson's very popular poem, The Seasons - Summer (1730 edition, lines 439-447, slightly modified; 1746 edition, lines 513-521; later editions, lines 516-524):

'Still let me pierce into the midnight Depth
Of yonder Grove, of wildest, largest Growth:
That, forming high in Air a woodland Quire,
Nods o'er the Mount beneath. At every Step,
Solemn, and slow, the Shadows blacker fall,
And all is awful listening Gloom around.
These are the Haunts of Meditation,
These the Scenes Where antient Bards th'inspiring Breath,
Extatic, felt: and from this World retir'd.'

Solitude first appeared as the title of this composition via the related print by Woollett and Ellis of 1778 (E44 etc.) which bore that title and the lines above.
D359 Solitude, Study for a Picture, c.1762, The British Museum (1881,0212.3)
E44 William Woollett and William Ellis after Wilson Solitude, 1778, National Museum Wales, Cardiff, and other impressions.
E57 Charles Duttenhofer after Wilson,Solitude, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, New Haven and other impressions
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In this landscape the artist draws on his memories of the Italian countryside as well as on his imagination to create a richly detailed panorama, suffused with a quiet and evocative mood. In 1854, G.F. Waagen observed of the painting, then in the Fountaine collection, 'I also noticed a landscape by Wilson, of considerable size, fine poetic composition, transparency, and thorough completion.'
Waagen 1854, vol. 3, p. 431, Letter XXXIII, Narford; WGC, pl. 28a (probably version 3); European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985, p. 438, repr.; J. Hayes, British Paintings of the Sixteenth through Nineteenth Centuries: The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue Washington, D.C., 1992, pp. 336-39, repr.; National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992, p. 145, repr.
Dimensions framed: 163.8 x 231.6 x 7.6 cm; 64 1/2 x 91 3/16 x 3 in. The medium-weight canvas is plain woven; it has been lined. The ground is light grey; it is smoothly applied and masks the weave of the canvas. The painting is executed smoothly and opaquely, with thin brown and green glazes in the details of the landscape, thick textured paint in the trees and low impasto in the highlights; the middle ground of the landscape on the right has been left unfinished, with the ground clearly visible in parts; the crude dark brown glazes in the centre and right foreground, which help to establish the solid character of the forms, are original. The painting was cleaned, lined and revarnished in London in 1973. It is in good condition. Linear cracks throughout the paint have been retouched; otherwise loss and damage are minimal. The thin natural resin varnish has not discoloured.
15/09/2021