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The Valley of the River Severn with a distant View of Shrewsbury
Christie's Images Limited 2014
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
The Valley of the River Severn with a distant View of Shrewsbury
c.1744-45 (undated)
Oil on canvas
50.8 x 94.6 cm
20 x 37 1/4 in.
Private Collection, USA
An extensive river scene with an angler in the foreground and a man leaning on a stick by his side. Two boats are on the river at the left in front of an arched stone bridge. In the background are a town and hills.
Stated in Sotheby's 1940 sale catalogue, mistakenly according to Constable, as having been exhibited at Manchester City Art Gallery
Col. E.F. Hall, Red House, Chilworth, Romsey, Hants.; Christie's 19 July 1929 (49); bt by Spink, London; with Arthur Tooth & Sons Ltd., London 1931; with Knoedler & Co., 15 Old Bond Street, London W.1, 1932 (#1270); Harcourt Johnstone; Sotheby's London 12 June 1940 (142 repr. Landscape with Fishermen in the Foreground), bt Tooth; Sir Stephenson Kent; Mrs C.K. Prestige; Sotheby's London 3 April 1968 (62); with the City Gallery London 1968, from whom acquired by Major T.C. Harvey and by descent; Christie's London 16 April 1982 (59 - A River Landscape with Fishermen); Christie's London 7 July 2010 (165 - An Extensive River Landscape, with Fishermen in the Foreground); Private Collection, USA
Close to P12 Caernarvon Castle, Detroit Institute of Arts, in style. The trees, rocks and landscape to the right are reminiscent of early Gainsborough. The birds are thickly but summarily painted onto the sky. The sky itself drops down onto the horizon in the usual way for Wilson, but the trees do not seem to be painted over reserves, which would be consistent with his later practice.
[1] Christie's sale 16 April 1982 (59)
[1] Upper centre: old Tooth label, with nos 597, 599 or 59Y
[2] Beneath it: smaller perforated edge label with number A1270
[3] Attached separately in transparent pocket lower left: old Tooth label : 'Valley of the Severn'
The view has not been definitively identified. The River Severn with Shrewsbury in the distance is possible - perhaps from Atcham, Shropshire, which has a seven-arched stone bridge across the river. In favour of Atcham - if the distant town is Shrewsbury - is the fact that the river appears to be running towards the viewer from the angle of the two fishing boats moored midstream. This would suggest a location downstream from Shrewsbury. However, the stone bridge, by John Gwynn (1713-1786), a contemporary of the artist, was not completed until 1776, which is problematic in view of the early dating of this picture on stylistic grounds.
WGC, p. 235, pl. 139c
Relined. Good overall condition, apart from a few scratches in the sky and some faded blue retouching in the sky and river. Little visible craquelure. The paint is very thin in places and the normal weave canvas is showing through. There is some juicy ochre impasto on the edges of the clouds.