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Summer Evening (Caernarvon Castle) (Formerly Conway Castle)
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Summer Evening (Caernarvon Castle) (Formerly Conway Castle)
1764-65 (undated)
Oil on canvas
62.9 x 116.2 cm
24 3/4 x 45 3/4 in.
B1981.25.688
P12B
The distant Anglesey shoreline and Tut Hill to the right are faithful to the actual site, but Eagle Tower has been replaced with a single round turret and the details of costume have been suppressed in favour of the ideal and timeless. The castle itself is probably based on P12 in the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts, a painting of the mid-1740s.
Winchester 1955; London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982-83 (115); British Landscape Paintings from the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Japan 1992-93 (2)
Sir Roger Mostyn, 5th Bart (1734-1796); Lord Mostyn and by descent; with H.A. Buttery, London 1936; with Leggatt; Sir George Leon, Bart; Mrs Thomas Parrington; purchased by Paul Mellon from Marlborough Gerson Galleries in 1965
Unsigned; no inscription
Dating is confirmed by the use of purplish tints and extremely fluid washes of pigment. The castle is painted in a beautiful mauve. There is bold facture, painted with thick brushes. Boldly impastoed rocks are in the foreground. The sky is beautifully modulated, but there are no birds. The sky has been brought down to the horizon in the normal way. Normal weave canvas.
[1] On loan Southampton AG
[2] E5547
[3] Marlborough label inv. NOL 4920
[4] Marlborough label inv. bL 2063
Rather than Conway, as formerly believed, it is Caernarvon Castle that has been introduced into an ideal landscape. Caernarvon Castle is located on the northern banks of the River Seiont on the Caernarvonshire coast in North Wales, across the Menai Straits from the Island of Anglesey. Its massive ruins offered the traveller in search of the picturesque an impressive reminder of Britain's heroic past. The castle was begun by Edward I in 1284 and his son Edward, the first English Prince of Wales, was born in the great Eagle Tower on 25th April that year.
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Typical of the artist's mature work in that it depicts a scene with elements characteristic of the British landscape, but renders them in a poetic manner at a remove from any particular time or place. This painting can be dated to around 1764-5, when Wilson produced a number of landscapes bathed in the glow of a summer evening.
Object ID: 1148
Pennant 1784, pp. 214-19; WGC, pp. 93-4, 170, pl. 30b, as Conway ; Solkin 1982, p. 223
If one compares this painting with P12D in the collection of the National Museum of Wales, one can see that the artist and patron are gone, as are the boat caulkers and other figures, also that three groups of two fishermen have appeared on the shoreline. In addition, there is a fire next to the tree trunk and the boat to the left of the castle seems Venetian. Some of the reflection to the right is not accurate in colour.
Good in general but paint loss u.c. about 1" from top edge; yellowed varnish. Sky brought down to horizon in normal way. Foamboard backboard.

Kate Lowry has noted:
Original simple weave canvas with turnovers removed before lining. Present glue lining and stretcher probably 20th century. In X-ray cusping of weave of original canvas can be seen at all edges. Stretcher has seven members, square mortice joints and provision for keying out. Ground is probably a commercial preparation and appears to be a smooth pale grey tone. X-ray image shows a dense white blob as of a seated figure to the left of the reflection of the main castle tower and the IR image shows a dark pentiment as of a hill behind and to the left of the blob. This suggests a change in the foreground staffage and the line of the water's edge. No other pentimenti were found and no underdrawing to suggest the main tower had been changed in any way. Normal light shows Wilson using purplish tints to express the shadows of the castle walls and their reflections. XRF showed these probably made using vermilion mixed with a blue, possibly Prussian. Yellow highlights on fence posts and tree foliage possibly contain Naples yellow. The sky appears to have faded to a pale blue grey, perhaps due to the use of indigo. The original blue colour can be seen at the top edge where covered by the frame rebate. Under UV light very minor retouches are visible over varnish at upper right corner and centre left edge. Otherwise no major damages visible.