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Caernarvon Castle
National Museum Wales, Cardiff
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Caernarvon Castle
c.1764-5 (undated)
Oil on canvas
63.5 x 125.1 cm
25 x 49 1/4 in.
NMW A 73
P12D
The castle is shown with reflections in the centre middle ground, beyond an inlet, with hills in the distance, left. In the foreground a woman plays with two children. There are boats on the water and a prominent tree to the right - all in a sunset light.
SA 1766 (190 - a version); Wembley, British Empire Exhibition, 1925 (V5); London 1934 (205); Birmingham 1948-9 (10); London 1949 (9); Cape Town 1952, British Council (33); RA 1954-5 (117); London, Thomas Agnew & Sons 1956 (32); Brighton 1957 (38); London, Thomas Agnew & Sons 1963; London, British Council 1966/7 (68); Tokyo/Kyoto 1970/1 (52); Conwy 2009 (19)
Bt from Shepherd Brothers, London, 15 September 1913
Unsigned; no inscription
Pigments found in the paint layers are typical for Wilson
Stretcher:
[1] Loan label [destination unknown]
[2] R.A. Winter Exhibition 1954-5, 18th Century, Ser.No. 217
[3] Agnew's, London cat.32
[4] British Council 18/19th century British Painting for Europe, 1966/7, Cat. no.18
[5] British Council, English Landscape, Tokyo & Kyoto, 1970, cat. no. 52
Frame:
[1] British Empire Exhibition, 1925, Dicksee & Co.
[2] British Council, 18/19th century British Painting for Europe 1966/7, Cat. 68
[3] R.A., Exhibition of British Art, 1934, in pencil: 10
[4] Small square label: 326
[5] Japanese label: P-53-48
[6] Small round label - HAB A31
[7] British Counil Tercentenary Celebrations, Cape Town 1952, no.26
Caernarvon Castle, the birthplace of the first Prince of Wales, was built by Edward I. Wilson painted several views of it which vary in topographical accuracy. In this version the landscape has been manipulated to create a balanced, frieze-like composition. The emphasis here is on the transience of human achievement. A mother and children play in front of the decayed symbol of oppression.
E27 William Byrne after Wilson, Caernarvon Castle, The British Museum, and other impressions
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Although Wilson's painted views of Caernarvon Castle include at least one that pre-dated his years in Italy, he seems to have toured in Wales in 1764 or 1765 and may have revisited the site then. Once again, however, he has modified the castle's topography and architecture so as to conform more closely to an idealised classical model.
Old accession number: 13.144
Old registration number: 131
1913.1
Pennant 1784, pp. 214-19; The Connoisseur, April 1923; Commemorative Catalogue 1934 (101), pl. XXXVI; Arts Council 1947 (5); WGC, pp. 93, 94, 173 pl. 32b; Cardiff 1961, pp. 24-25; Herrmann 1973, p. 57, pl. 49B; Wolf Eiermann, 2001, pp. 32, pl. 19P; Lord 2009, p. 57, no. 19; Wilson and Europe 2014 (fig.135)
Infra-red reflectography shows some reworking of the composition to remove a tree lower in the left corner and a tower of the castle.The latter shows more clearly in an X-ray image. On the evidence of the craquelure in the sky and of a cross-section the sky has been reworked by the artist.