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The River Dee near Eaton Hall
The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
The River Dee near Eaton Hall
Early 1760s (undated)
Oil on canvas
68.6 x 114.3 cm
27 x 45 1/2 in
This view is near Eaton Hall, Cheshire. According to Howson (see Westminster 1874) it is 'seen from a well-known point of view not very far below the point where the tributary joins the main river.' 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 northwest, 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.
British Institution 1824 (146 - View on the River Dee, lent Sir T. Baring); British Institution 1842 (75 - Banks of the Dee, lent Sir T. Baring); British Institution 1845 (130 - Landscape); RA Old Masters 1871 (381 - River Scene and Figures, lent Earl of Dudley); RA Old Masters 1894 (102 - lent Holford); London 1925 (6 - lent by Lt.-Col. Sir George Holford, K.C.V.O., C.I.E.); Vienna 1927 (44 - lent Holford); Amsterdam 1936 (178)
Sir Thomas Baring by 1814; sold Christie's, 2 June 1848 (45 - A View on the Dee, with extensive distant country, lighted by a glaring evening sun; some peasants in the foreground), bt James or J.E. Fordham (£164-17-0); William Coningham, sold Christie's 9 June 1849 (23); bt Farrer (£225-15-0); Earl of Dudley by 1871; sold Christie's, 25 June 1892 (32); bt Agnew, 300 guineas; 1893, Pandeli Ralli (1845-1928); 1894, Sir George Lindsay Holford, Dorchester House, Park Lane, London W. & Westonbirrt, Gloucestershire; sold Christie's 17 May 1928 (121), bt Agnew (4100 gns); 18 May 1928, Major Jack S. Courtauld; Mrs J.S. Courtauld; Miss Jeanne Courtauld; bequeathed to the Courtauld Institute, 2005
Inscribed lower centre below the figures: RW monogram, the R reversed
Pale coloured ground, probably applied by a colourman; it does not extend to the edges of the original canvas. The ground is composed of chalk with some lead white bound in oil and there are small additions of earths (yellow and red ochre and a bone black or umber) and possibly some glass. The ground seems to have been applied in two layers, possibly with an intermediate sealing layer and with no identified discrete priming layer. No dead colouring has been identified and the paint seems to have been applied with only one or two layers in the lights. The artist has used two different blues for the sky and river - a more purplish pigment, probably ultramarine, for the sky and a greenish blue for the river (probably Prussian blue). Several pentimenti: a slight adjustment to the position of the large tree at the right and also the roots of the tree resting on the stone ledge. The foreground foliage at the right hand bank has also been reduced slightly and the log with the figures appears to have been extended slightly into the river.There is possible scratching through of the upper surface to the underpaint to be seen through two of the tree trunks at the left.
[1] Handwritten in brown ink on label at top, reverse left corner:
Name of Artist: R. Wilson
Title of work: Landscape
Name and address of owner: Major J.S. Courtauld, Burton Park - Petworth.
This composition appears to be the artist's first depiction of 'public' British scenery (as opposed to private estates) executed after his return from Italy in 1757. The setting is near Eaton Hall, Cheshire and was described by a former owner, J.S. Howson as 'seen from a well known point of view not very far from the spot where the tributary joins the main river' (Art Journal 1873). Eaton Hall was the country seat of the first Earl Grosvenor.
D354 The Banks of the River Dee near Eaton Hall Cheshire, Art Institute of Chicago, Leonora Hall Gurley Collection
E25 Thomas Morris after Wilson, The Banks of the River Dee near Eaton, Cheshire, The British Museum & other impressions
E71/1 John Young after Wilson, View on the River Dee, near Eaton Hall, The British Museum
See 'Links' tab
P111 The Valley of the Dee with Chester in the Distance, The National Gallery, London
Wilson painted this charming river scene a few years after his return from Italy. There he had studied the landscape of the Roman Campagna and its representation by Claude and Gaspard Dughet, as evident here in the soft, golden lighting. The influence of Cuyp is discernible, but more evident is that of Claude's river variations, such as Landscape with the Flight into Egypt, 1663, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid. P86 the Barber Institute's painting is the earliest of numerous versions. Even if it was not the picture exhibited at the Society of Artists exhibition of 1760 it must have been painted about that year, which is also the that of the Petworth version (P86A). Comparison at the National Gallery (2 September 2013) revealed that this painting (P86B) is a much more fluid and worked up picture than the Barber Insitute picture (P86), with many more background details, suggesting an exhibition picture.
Westminster 1874; The Holford Collection, Dorchester House, 1927, vol. 2, p. 39, cat. 174 , pl. CLIX; Country Life, 7 November 1947, p.929 repr. over the fireplace; WGC, p174, pl. 34c (incorrectly repr. as 34a)
The Dee near Eaton Hall, 'as seen from a well-known point of view not very far from the point where the tributary (J.S. Howson)
The artist was distantly related to Sir Richard Grosvenor through the Mostyn family. Writers from Elizabethan times, including Spenser and Milton, referred to an ancient tradition ascribing god-like qualities to the River Dee, prophetic for the fortunes of England and Wales, which lie to either side of it.
Impasto flattened by lining. Several pentimenti noted: the position of a branch of the large tree at the right and the roots on the ledge at the left have been adjusted. Also the foreground foliage on the right hand bank has been reduced slightly and the log with the figures extended into the river. Indentation along the margins suggest the painting may have originally been framed whilst the paint was still wet.