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The Cock Tavern, Cheam, Surrey
Tate, London 2014
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
The Cock Tavern, Cheam, Surrey
c.1745 (undated)
Oil on canvas
43.6 x 74 cm
17 1/8 x 29 1/16 in.
N03136
P15
The view is probably south towards Banstead Downs, Surrey. Cheam Common opens out beyond it, while in the distance to the right the building is probably Cheam House.
London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982-82 (9)
Bequeathed by the Revd Augustus Stopford Brooke, 1916
Unsigned; no inscription
Primed and stretched canvas. It has a dark ground. The facture, especially of the tavern, trees and water at the right looks later, perhaps 19th century. The style of paint application is Wilson's but some of the greens appear more modern.
The Cock Tavern was probably the Cock Inn, a well-known country coaching inn located in Sutton, the neighbouring parish to Cheam. It stood beside an unexceptional area of common land about 12 miles south-west of central London.
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As Solkin has noted, this was apparently the most popular of Wilson's early landscapes, to judge by the fact that it survives in four versions. Yet prima facie it does not look like Wilson. The composition and colour are close to Esias van de Velde's Wooded River Landscape (Sotheby's 14 April 2011 (108)). Certainly the work shows Wilson at his most Netherlandish and was probably intended for a new group of middle-class buyers whose taste in landscape tended more towards Dutch-style views than to the grandiose pastorals of the classical tradition. Solkin has also extensively discussed the social and economic implications inherent in the contrast between the tumbledown inn with its decaying picket fence and resting peasants on the left and the newly-built house with its neat enclosure and strolling bourgeoisie opposite.
Fletcher 1908, repr. opp. p. 160; WGC, p, 171, under pl. 30c; Solkin 1982, pp. 31-33, 150; Waites 2012, pp. 55-56, fig. 18.
Described by WGC as 'a smaller version (16 1/4 x 27 1/2 in.)' of P15B in the Tate, London collection. Compared with P15B, this painting omits the table, hollyhocks, sunflowers and figures in the foreground and the figures beyond the water.
Dimensions of frame: 68 x 97 cm. Surface cleaned in frame, July 2005.
Kate Lowry has noted: Original canvas relined. Turnovers lost at the time of lining. Ground is dark in tone. The greens are not convincing as Wilson. The tree near the inn is poorly defined and there is no reserve for the tree against the sky. The water at lower right is glazed and rather blurred.