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Solitude - II
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. Paul Mellon Collection
Richard Wilson and Studio
Solitude - II
c.1762-1770 (undated)
Oil on canvas
142.1 x 210.1 cm
55 15/16 x 82 11/16 in.
On a massive pedestal stands the ruin of a lion with a globe under its paw, symbolising the inevitability of death and decay. The pagan hermit reading at the base of the statue and the two Christian monks to the left (their church highlighted in a clearing in the woods centre background) seem to share a common hope of discovering answers to the mysteries of life. In the background is a rocky pool, with an extensive view to the mountains and a distant volcano to the right.
National Gallery of Art Washington, 1986, Gifts to the Nation: Selected Acquisitions from the Collections of Mr and Mrs Paul Mellon (unnumbered checklist)
Perhaps Maddox Street Gallery, London 1828; Mr Gray, Ilkley Yorkshire; 1839 bt Chaplin, from whom bt 1839 by Andrew Fountaine (1808-1874), Narford Hall, King's Lynn, Norfolk; by descent to Andrew Fountaine (b.1918); Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 23 June 1972 (57, repr.); bt Thomas Agnew & Sons for Paul Mellon, Upperville, Virginia, USA; given to the National Gallery of Art, 1983
Taken from James Thomson's The Seasons: Summer (1730 edition, lines 439-447, slightly modified ; 1746 edition, lines 513-521; later editions, lines 516-524):
'Still let me pierce into the midnight Depth
Of yonder Grove, of wildest, largest Growth:
That, forming high in Air a woodland Quire,
Nods o'er the Mount beneath. At every Step,
Solemn, and slow, the Shadows blacker fall,
And all is awful listening Gloom around.
These are the Haunts of Meditation,
These the Scenes Where antient Bards th'inspiring Breath,
Extatic, felt: and from this World retir'd'.
D359 Solitude, Study for a Picture, c.1762, The British Museum (1881,0212.3)
E44 William Woollett and William Ellis after Wilson Solitude, 1778, National Museum Wales, Cardiff, and other impressions.
E57 Charles Duttenhofer after Wilson,Solitude, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, New Haven and other impressions
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In this landscape the artist draws on his memories of the Italian countryside as well as on his imagination to create a richly detailed panorama, suffused with a quiet and evocative mood. In 1854, G.F. Waagen observed of the painting, then in the Fountaine collection, 'I also noticed a landscape by Wilson, of considerable size, fine poetic composition, transparency, and thorough completion.' It was certainly in Fountaine's possession by 1854, when it was noted in G. F. Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, 4 vols. (London, 1854), 3: 431
Waagen 1854, vol. 3, p. 431, Letter XXXIII, Narford; 'I also noticed a landscape by Wilson, of considerable size, fine poetic composition, transparency, and thorough completion'; WGC, pl. 28a (version); European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985, 438, repro.; J. Hayes, British Paintings of the Sixteenth through Nineteenth Centuries, The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue, Washington, D.C., 1992, 336-339, color repro. 337; National Gallery of Art, Washington, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992, 145, repr.
Dimensions framed: 163.8 x 231.6 x 7.6 cm; 64 1/2 x 91 3/16 x 3 in. The medium-weight canvas is plain woven; it has been lined. The ground is light grey; it is smoothly applied and masks the weave of the canvas. The painting is executed smoothly and opaquely, with thin brown and green glazes in the details of the landscape, thick textured paint in the trees and low impasto in the highlights; the middle ground of the landscape on the right has been left unfinished, with the ground clearly visible in parts; the crude dark brown glazes in the centre and right foreground, which help to establish the solid character of the forms, are original. The painting was cleaned, lined and revarnished in London in 1973. It is in good condition. Linear cracks throughout the paint have been retouched; otherwise loss and damage are minimal. The thin natural resin varnish has not discoloured.