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The Valley of the Dee with Chester in the Distance
The National Gallery, London
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
The Valley of the Dee with Chester in the Distance
Oil on canvas
148.3 x 193.5 cm
58 3/8 x 76 3/16 in.
NG 6197
The view is further downstream from the village of Holt in Denbighshire, North Wales than that shown in P110 Holt Bridge on the River Dee, National Gallery, London. The towers of Chester Cathedral and St John's Church are just visible in the background. The hills in the distance may be in Lancashire, beyond the River Mersey. The time of day is evening, contrasting with the morning light of P110. In the evening glow to the left sit two seated figures in conversation with a standing woman nursing her child, accompanied by a greyhound. Cattle and a goat graze behind them. In the right middle distance is a church tower and in the right middleground two figures are disappearing beyond the ridge at the far end of the rutted track.
SA 1761 (140 View near Chester); BI 1841 (119 or 123 Landscape, lent by J. Tollemache, Esq.); London 1951-52 (23); Rotterdam 1955 (66); London 1951-52 (23 - Landscape); Moscow 1960 (15); London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982 (96); Goodwood House, West Sussex 2005
Probably purchased from the artist by Lyonel Tollemache, 4th Earl of Dysart (1708-1770); Louisa, Countess of Dysart; by descent to Bentley Lyonel John Tollemache, 3rd Baron Tollemache, until sold together with P110 (two years before his death) by the Trustees of the Tollemache Estates, Christie's 15 May 1953 (159); bt Agnew's (#J0998); bt by the National Gallery (Colnaghi Fund), 12 November 1953
Much more broadly painted than P110. The golden lighting coming from the west varies in technique from the treatment of light in that painting. While the plants in the foreground are well-defined and bold, those in the left background are very sketchy. There is a pentimento in the tree branch at the top right.
[1] Top horizontal member of frame, centre, pencil: No.2 [...] Bookcase G
[2] Top horizontal member of frame right, stencil: NG 6197
[3] Lower horizontal member of frame, pencil: Restored 25/4/28 / E B
[4] Middle horizontal stretcher bar, left centre white chalk: 59
[1] Top horizontal member of frame, left: British Council label
[2] Top horizontal member of frame, centre: typed label
[3] Middle horizontal stretcher bar, left: Rotterdam 1955 label
[4] Lower horizontal member of frame, printed: Agnew's label
As Judy Egerton has noted, the viewpoint is elusive. Martin Davies suggested that it might be looking south along the Dee towards Wrexham but Daivd Solkin proposed that it was looking north towards Chester and thus was possibly identifiable with the View near Chester exhibited at the Society of Artists in 1761. Peter Boughton, Keeper of Art at the Grosvenor Museum, Chester, in correspondence with Judy Egerton, confirmed the identification of the picture with that exhibited in 1761 and set the scene about a mile and a half downstream from Wilson's viewpoint in P110. However, S. Matthews has argued cogently that the painting is a composition of several scenes within a general framework. These include the clearly profiled range of hills almost in the centre, whose shape confirms them as the northern end of the Peckfortons, while the smaller bump to the left is Beeston Hill and to the left again is the Delamere range. S. Matthews proposed a viewpoint, suitably adjusted to accommodate a transported river, from Hosely Bank, south of Marford.
J.P. Neale, Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen in England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland , vol. 4, 1821, n.p. (under Helmingham Hall); Ford 1951, pp. 36 and 62, pl. 70; WGC, pp. 88, 175, pl. 35b; Davies 1959, pp. 108-109; Parris 1973, p. 31; Herrmann 1973, p. 55, pl. 56; M. Rosenthal, British Landscape Painting, Oxford 1982, p. 64, fig. 52; Solkin 1982, pp. 207-9; J. Hayes, British Painting of the 16th-19th Centuries, Washington, 1992, pp. 334-36; R. White and J. Pike, 'Analyses of Paint Media', National Gallery Technical Bulletin, 1998, pp. 326-31; Egerton 1998, rev. 2000, pp. 326-31; S. Matthews, 'Manipulating the Landscape: Richard Wilson and the Dee Valley', Cheshire History, no. 40, Chester, 2000-2001, pp. 26-30
Painted area: 147 x 192 cm (57 7/8 x 75 5/8 in.) Drying cracks abound.

Kate Lowry has noted:
Glue relined with most of the turnover edges removed at time of lining. Marked on stretcher: 'Restored 25/8/38 EB'. Present nine member pine stretcher dates from lining. Original stretcher had a single vertical cross-member 70mm wide and four outer members 80mm wide. Present stretcher has been fitted with a polyester sailcloth cami-lining. Surviving turnovers at right hand and lower edges are covered by commercially-prepared oil ground which is biscuit-coloured. Pentiment in branches of tree at upper right corner. Prussian blue in sky slightly faded. Widespread drying cracks around the figure group and in distant landscape. Generally less well-painted than P110.