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Waterhouse 1953
Waterhouse 1953
Ellis Kirkham Waterhouse
Painting in Britain 1530-1790
Secondary published
First published in 1953, the book has been through numerous subsequent editions but the first predated W.G. Constable's ground-breaking monograph on Wilson [WGC]. Chapter 17 devoted eight pages to an account of the artist's life, an evaluation of his work and a discussion of his 'rivals and followers' (pp.172-79). In comparison, Reynolds was given ten and Gainsborough twelve. For highlights from the insightful text see below.
Wilson fills much the same place in the development of a tradition of landscape painting in Britain that Reynolds does in the formation of portraiture. Both appear on the scene at the same kind of moment, when the ground had already been broken for the establishment of a new style; both were the sons of clergy and had some pretensions to scholarship; both were in Italy in the early 1750s and became saturated with the Mediterranean tradition. But there the likeness ends and, in their outward circumstances, there was great disparity [p. 172]. The landscape of the Campagna did for Wilson what Michelangelo's and Raphael's works did for Reynolds during the same years. It saturated him with an ideal beauty from which his imagination was never to escape [p.174]. Wilson's own drawings on the ground are little more than memoranda, sometimes only of rocks or tombs or antique fragments. They have nothing of Claude's splendours about them and may rather be compared with the drawings such Dutchmen as Berghem must have brought back with them, which were to serve for painting Italian scenes for the rest of their lives [p. 175] It is, however, in his interpretations of the British scene that Wilson made his most original contributions to landscape painting [...] His Welsh views are the cream of his work and he saw the country with a mind rich in memories of the Roman Campagna [p. 176].