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The River Dee near Eaton Hall (detail of signature and date)
Petworth House, National Trust
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
The River Dee near Eaton Hall (detail of signature and date)
Oil on canvas
64.8 x 83.8 cm
25 1/2 x 33 in.
The view is near Eaton Hall, Cheshire. The river extends from the left foreground to the centre middle distance and is bordered on both sides by trees and bushes. At a bend in the middle distance there is a cottage and in a field to the left, cows are grazing. A tree in the right foreground extends its branches nearly halfway across the picture. Distant hills are seen on the left and the sky is yellow with the sunset. The direction seems to be downstream, towards the north west, Chester and the distant hills of Wales. The setting may be partly imaginary, however, as the mood is one of evening which the direction of the sun does not support. On the bank, in the right corner, two figures are seated beneath a tree and on the right bank centre, there is a red brick house. There are meadows in the centre and left distance, bounded by low hills. A woman in a red petticoat is on the far bank in the middle distance.
SA 1760 (74 A small landskip, the Banks of the River Dee); BI 1814 (214); Suffolk Street Gallery 1834, (76); Wildenstein, London, Loan Exhibition of Pictures and Works of Art from Petworth House, 1954 (25); Agnew's London, English Pictures from National Trust Houses, 1965 (7); Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Art, Tresors des Chateaux Britanniques appartenant aux National Trusts de Grande Bretagne, Europalia 1973 (69); Royal Society of Arts, Adelphi, London, undated (360)
A bill made out by 'Wm. Dormer' to George, 3rd Earl of Egremont (1751-1837) for five paintings (£260), dated 15 November 1802, included a 'Landscape by Wilson', which may be this or one of the other pictures by Wilson at Petworth today; by descent to the 3rd Lord Leconfield; accepted by HM Treasury as part payment of death duties, 1957; accepted by the National Trust on loan from HM Treasury, 21 February 1957; formal transfer of ownership by HM Treasury to the National Trust, 20 September 1990
Signed and dated lower centre: RW [monogram, the R reversed] 1760
Frame inscribed:
[1] In white chalk: 127
[2] In pencil: 360
[3] In pencil: Church Room / over DiRm ? Doo
[4] In bold white paint: 360
[1] Stretcher has blind stamp: I PEEL/LINER
[2] Paper label: WO
[3] Printed label on frame: Jeremiah & Wm Freeman, CARVERS, GILDERS & LOOKING-GLASS MANUFACTURERS / WHOLESALE & RETAIL / NO. 2 LONDON [ROAD], NORWICH ... [followed by details of what supplied and performed]
[4] Typed label on frame: 'To Royal Society of Arts, Adelphi, W.C.2 / Richard Wilson 360 River / Landscape / From Petworth House, / Petworth, Sussex
The composition appears to be the first depiction of 'public' British scenery, as opposed to private estates, executed after Wilson's return from Italy. Writers from Elizabethan times, including Spenser and Milton, referred to an ancient tradition ascribing godlike qualities to the Dee, prophetic for the fortunes of England and Wales, lying on either side of it.
This painting, rather than P86 (see 'Related Paintings'), may have been the work commissioned by Sir Richard Grosvenor in 1760. Constable noted that this version emphasises the effect of evening light more than P86. The clouds are more heavily massed to the left and there are numerous differences of detail, most noticeably the pair of lovers in the foreground. The signature is unusually cursive and particularly prominent at the lower centre. The figures on the right are meticulously painted as are those on a much smaller scale behind.
352 Phillips 1835
360 Chrippes 1837; Knox 1856; Collins Baker 1920
197 HM Treasury
189 National Trust
20 NT Guides, North Gallery, 1973-90
Philips Petworth 1835, MS.86.FF.67, 'Ante Room to the Square Dining Room 352 River Scene Wilson'; Chrippes Inventory 1837 (360); Knox 1850, p. 30; Westminster 1874; Collins Baker 1920, p.135 (360); WGC, pp. 71, 87, 119, 174, pl. 34b; St John Gore, ' Three Centuries of Discrimination, Apollo, no. 183, May 1977, pp. 354 (fig. 25) & 356; Solkin 1982, pp. 197-98 under 83
Former titles: River Scene, Landscape with a Lake and pastoral Scenery, View on the Dee, View on the Dee near Eaton
Cleaned by Henry Restra Bolton, December 1854; cleaned by Brealey, 1952. Generally good condition; small areas of slight bituminous damage by figures and by the cow, left. Note the thick impasto reinforcements to the edges of the clouds round the roseate area. According to Kate Lowry as seen from the front it seems to be glue lined. Frame: Gilt plaster, 19th century.