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A Summer Evening ('On the Arno' - I)
National Galleries of Scotland / Photography by Antonia Reeve
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
A Summer Evening ('On the Arno' - I)
Mid-1760s (undated)
Oil on canvas
85.1 x 127 cm
30 x 50 in.
NG 620
P96B
An Italianate rural landscape, with a high foreground overlooking a wide river with two trees and a fallen trunk to the left and two boys fishing with a seated girl and her baby to the right. In the middle distance is a broad stretch of water with a rocky cliff in the background to the right, surmounted by a castle. There is a shallow bank to the left, with hazy plains and mountains in the distance. This imaginative scene is framed on the left by graceful tree trunks, which punctuate the sky. The delicate light, conveyed through soft colouring, is reflected in the river and enhances the sense of space.
BI 1814 (168 Landscape lent Mrs Pitcairn); Walker Art Gallery Liverpool 1933, Commemoration Exhibition in Connection with the Re-opening of the Gallery (no recorded cat. no.)
Bequest of Mrs Mary Veitch (whose maiden name was Pitcairn according to a privately printed Royal Scottish Academy catalogue of 1883 cited by Constable) to the Royal Scottish Academy 1875; transferred and presented to the National Gallery of Scotland 1910
The figures are well painted, except for the fisherman lying down. At the end of the line, there seems to be an eel or worm. The building on the upper right is contemporary and well painted. The trees and foliage are convincing. The boat in the distance is well articulated, half in light and half in shadow. The reflections in the water are subtle.
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Wilson spent much of the 1750s in Italy and produced paintings of Italian scenes for the rest of his life. However, he also painted views of his native Wales and it is sometimes difficult to be sure, as with this painting, whether he meant to evoke the Arno, the Po, the Tiber or the Dee valley. The composition is similar to that found in many of his views, combining topographical detail, often studied in North Wales and Cheshire, with some artistic licence. There are many surviving versions of this picture - an archetypal 'good breeder'.
Art Property in the Possession of the Royal Scottish Academy, privately printed Edinburgh 1883, p. 49; Inv.no. NG620; WGC, p. 213, pl. 100a (version 1 with 4 or 5 figures); The National Gallery of Scotland Concise Catalogue of Paintings, 1977, p. 385
Cleaned 1965. 2002 Condition Report by Lesley Stevenson. Lined, backboard fitted. Some old discoloured varnish overall. There is possible vertical damage down the extreme left side and a horizontal yellow patch above and slightly to the left of the distant mountain - perhaps an attempted repair. Some bituminous surface cracking in the foreground, but most of this is impastoed plants. It is difficult to make out the cave in the middle right distance.

Kate Lowry has noted: Pale grey ground. Details of foliage around base of trees at lower left, figures in boat in middle of lake and foreground figures are good, although legs of recumbent man are rather awkward. Mountain in background quite prominent. Varnish rather yellowed. Discoloured retouching to damage down left hand edge. Some drying cracks in passages of dark paint in foreground.