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Pembroke Town and Castle
National Museum Wales, Cardiff
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Pembroke Town and Castle
c.1765-66 (undated)
Oil on canvas
102.7 x 128.2 cm
40 1/2 x 50 9/16 in.
NMW A 64
P154
The town of Pembroke is seen from the west in a warm golden light. The view is taken from across a tidal inlet of the Cleddau estuary and effects a smooth transition from the ancient fortress with its 13th-century round keep and jagged silhouette to the town itself, dominated by the tower of St Mary's Church, left centre. This juxtaposed ensemble suggests continuity between a heroic past and a prosperous, active present, emphasised by the figures in a boat and a boy climbing a tree in the left foreground.
BI 1849 (121); Manchester 1909 (64); Manchester 1925 (13); London 1934 (235); Venice 1938 (Sala 8, no. 11); National Gallery London, Exhibition in Honour of Sir Robert Witt of the principal Acquisitions made for the Nation through the National Art-Collections Fund , 1945-46 (19); Paris 1953 (95); Rotterdam 1955 (71); Agnew's, London, Loan exhibition from the National Museum of Wales, 1956 (34); London Tate Gallery & Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, National Art Collections Fund, 1968; Paris 1972 (338); London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982-83 (119); London, Colnaghi 1988, Prospects of Park and Town; London, Christie's The Dragon and the Thistle; London, Paris and Madrid 2009-10 (14); Tercentenary 2014 (83)
Probably commissioned by William Vaughan of Corsygedol; Col. Salusbury of Rûg, where seen by Farington and Beaumont in 1800; Sir Robert Williames Vaughan, 3rd Baronet, Rûg, Nannau, inherited from his uncle, 1848; Major-General John V. Vaughan, Nannau, Dolgellau; Christie's, 20 June 1930 (113 Pembroke Castle), bt Thomas Agnew & Sons, London (£1470); bt 1930 by National Museum of Wales with assistance from the National Art Collections Fund and contributions from the Marquis of Bute, the Hon. Evan Morgan, and Messrs Colin, Gerald and Hugh Agnew.
Unsigned; no inscription
Kate Lowry has commented:
A commercially prepared double layer of grey ground, not very dense, with an intermediate size layer was used. The X-ray image confirms the usual strong contrast between foreground and sky and indicates some changes made by the artist in the central figure group in the foreground. The treatment of the tree foliage at left against the sky demonstrates Wilson's habit of leaving a light-toned underpaint visible between the masses of leaves, which adds to their modelling. The foreground landscape and buildings are reserved against the sky except the for the church tower. The munitions tower has been moved to the left. Various changes have been made to the central figure group, especially to the boatman and the central figure may be an afterthought.
[1] Robert W. Vaughan, Rug.
From old stretcher:
[1] British Council, Venice 1938 , no. 210
[2] Biennale, 1938, no. 207
[3] Agnew and Sons
[4] British Council, English Landscape, 1953, no. 92
[5] Loan t Agnew's, 1956, no.34
[6] British Council, Boymans Museum, 1955, no. 71
[7] Boymans Museum Exhibition English Landscape
Pembroke Castle was founded in 1094 by Arnulf de Montgomery. It was the birthplace of Henry VIII. During the Civil War it was taken by Cromwell in 1648 after a siege of six weeks. In 1724 Pembroke was described by Daniel Defoe as '...the Largest and Richest ... most flourishing Town of all South Wales'. (Tour, vol. 2, p. 456)
D368 Pembroke Town and Castle, The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth (P06223)
E29 James Mason after Wilson, Pembroke Town and Castle 1775, The British Museum and other impressions
A smaller derivative painting after Wilson by an unknown artist is Pembroke Castle Manchester City Galleries (1909.38)
The composition relies on a formula developed in 17th century Holland of two low-lying triangles linked by a common diagonal. This was in common use in England for river views but Wilson has combined it with the principles of classical landscape. He had made a preparatory drawing of the scene, D368 Pembroke Town and Castle, The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, in comparison with which Oliver Fairclough has noted that P154 introduces a framing cliff on the left and a raised river bank below the castle so that its walls are reflected in the water below. Farington records the picture at Rûg in 1800, in the possession of Edward Williams Vaughan, who assumed the name Salusbury on inheriting Rûg in 1780. The verso inscription refers to Sir Robert Vaughan, Bart, of Nannau, who inherited Rûg in 1848.
30.379
340
Farington Diary, vol. 4, 13 October 1800; Commemorative Catalogue 1934 (105, pl. XXXVIII); Bury 1947, pp. 47, 53, pl. 47; WGC, pp. 94, 183, pl. 48b; I.A. Williams, 'A Welsh Drawing by Richard Wilson', National Library of Wales Journal vol. 8, no. 1, Summer 1953, p. 75 ff; Constable 1954; Cardiff 1961, pp. 28-29; Solkin 1982, pp. 226-27; Solkin 2009, pp. 21, 42, 101, 114-15; Wilson and Europe 2014, p. 268.
Dimensions framed: 123 x 148.5 x 10.5 cm. Restored and relined 1968. Restored, lined and cleaned by Stefan Slabezynski, Tate Gallery, 1982. Original simple weave linen has c.16 threads per sq. cm. Relined with wax-resin adhesive onto a similar weight linen canvas in 1968. Impregnation is very even and adhesion between canvases is good. Original turnover edges survive though lower corners are mostly missing. Attachment to stretcher is through original and lining turnovers with copper tacks. Small hole in original canvas repaired at lower left in foreground. Pine stretcher with square mortice joints dates from 1968 relining. The original stretcher had four members and corner braces. Commercial oil ground extends onto all turnover edges, so applied before original stretching. Cross-sections indicate a double layer of grey ground with intermediate size layer. Sky is underpainted white to cover grey of ground and a reserve of white left for tree and foliage at left. Light underpaint is left exposed between areas of foliage. Thin pale blue overlies this. Clouds are painted over blue of sky. Foreground areas are much less thickly painted and X-ray shows these were reserved. The arrangement of figures in the boat have been altered leading to development of wrinkling in surrounding paint. The position of the boatmans left arm has been raised and outlines of another figure to the right of him may indicate his previous position. The middle figure of the group has no reserve, which may indicate this was a late change to the composition. Widespread mature cracks larger in sky and finer in the landscape. Drying cracks present at lower edge in centre associated with artists changes to composition. Small filled/retouched damage at lower left corner and in sky to upper right of munitions tower. Otherwise undamaged.
Under UV, retouches visible along lower edge, centre right edge in sky and upper left between tree and edge of painting in sky. Minor retouches also at centre top edge of sky.Thick coating of resin varnish visible under UV, this coating consists of the old varnish not removed in 1968 and a further spray coat of MS2A applied over. Rather yellowed and thicker over the dark areas.