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The Valley of the Mawddach, with Cader Idris beyond
Walker Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool / The Bridgeman Art Library
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
The Valley of the Mawddach, with Cader Idris beyond
Early 1770s
Oil on canvas
92 x 110 cm
36 1/4 x 43 1/4 in.
WAG 2428
The view is of the peaks of Cader Idris and Mynydd Moel from a point several miles to the north-east, near the banks of the River Mawddach in Merionethshire. The town of Dolgellau is hidden by the hill on the right of the view and a house called Gelligemlyn is visible in the valley.
[?] R.A. 1774 (316 - A View of Caderidris Mountains in North Wales); Liverpool Art Club 1881 (130); London, National Gallery 1945, Some Acquisitions of the Walker Art Gallery, 1935-45 (6); Birmingham 1948-49 (34); London 1949 (33); Brighton 1957 The Influence of Wales in Painting (39); London, Tate Gallery 1959 The Romantic Movement (377); London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982-83 (136a); Madrid 1988-89 (12); Ghent, Museum voor Schone Kunsten 2007-8, British Vision: Observation and Imagination in British Art 1750-1950 (114)
Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, Wynnstay [?] according to W.G. Constable, sold at Christie's, 14 June 1879 (379); bt Agnew £105 as Cader Idris; 1879, Robert Rankin, sold Christie's 14 May 1898 (86 - Cader Idris) bt Agnew [£84]; 1898, John Rankin; presented to the Walker Art Gallery by Sir Robert Rankin, M.P. and his brother, James Rankin, 1937, in memory of their father, John Rankin
Unsigned; no inscription
1. On side of stretcher, lower left: 352 P
2. 'A View of Cader Idris Mountains in N. Wales' was exh. R.A., 1774, no. 316
As Martin Postle has noted, the picture is one of several views that Wilson painted from this location and that he exhibited at the R.A. in 1774. He must have been familiar from his youth with the countryside of the Mawddach Valley. Here the most imposing landmark is the mountain Cader Idris, which contains the volcanic lake, Llyn-y-Cau. The mountain was traditionally the focus of numerous legends, supposedly the home of a monstrous giant and a Welsh seat of King Arthur. One of the factors that prompted Wilson to paint this countryside apart from its rugged beauty, was its association with the classical myths of Italy.
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George Barret, Powerscourt Waterfall (1758, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool)
This is one of the last of Wilson's great works. When he painted it he was beginning to suffer from the alcoholism, which ended his career in obscurity and poverty. It is better quality than the Manchester version (P179B) and as Constable pointed out, more thinly painted and more decisive in touch. The three descending figures in the foreground provide a typical Wilsonian motif.
Booth Notes Doc. 4; Booth Notes Doc. 5, p. 1 [?]; WGC, pp. 180-81, pl. 45a; J. Hayes, Richard Wilson (The Masters 57) 1966, pp. 6, 8, fig.5, pl. XVI; Herrman 1973, p. 59, pl.54; Solkin 1982, p.241, no. 136a; London, Royal Academy & Washington D.C., National Gallery of Art, 1993, exh. cat., The Great Age of British Watercolours, fig. 7'; R. Hoozee ed., British Vision, 2007, pp. 195-96; Kidson 2012, pp. 269-71, pl. 17
The distant peaks of Cader Idris and Mynydd Moel from the south-east, near the River Mawddach in Merionethshire, North Wales
The 1770s witnessed the first major influx of tourists into the Welsh countryside, which began to be appreciated less for its remote, idealised past than as a potential Picturesque tourist destination.
Treated by JCW in 1959.
Kate Lowry has noted: Gilt compo frame glazed with low-reflective glass. Viewed in frame on display. Oil on canvas, relined? Not signed or dated. No detailed conservation record exists. Minor damages throughout according to David Crombie. Colour of ground not visible. Slightly larger and more detailed than the version in Manchester (P179B). Dark shadows in foreground survive intact. Sunlight falling from upper left catching the middle distant hills is well captured. Canaletto fluidity to the details caught by the light. Low clouds on peaks and in valley to the right. Grey blue sky. Foreground figures and the river below are clearly visible.