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Vernon
Vernon
Robert Vernon, 1774-1849
Collector
As recorded in the 1909 Dictionary of National Biography, Vernon was 'of humble origin and became, through his own exertions, a job-master, posting contractor and dealer in horses in London in a very large way. He amassed a large fortune as contractor for the supply of horses to the British armies during the wars with Napoleon. He [then] turned his attention to pictures ...' Until the early 1830s his collecting was devoted almost exclusively to subject paintings by living artists but in 1832 he began to diversify by acquiring Gainsborough's large landscape, Sunset: Carthorses drinking at a Stream (Tate, London N00310). '[He] is said to have bought [these] without the intervention of dealers and with little guidance beyond that of his own judgement. On 22 December 1847 he presented a selection of 153 pictures and five sculptures from it to the nation.' These were the more noteworthy for being by modern British artists and thus forming the basis for a public collection of the national school. Formerly installed at his country house, Arlington Court, Berkshire, they were transferred successively to Marlborough House, the South Kensington Museum and, from 1876, to the National Gallery; most are now at Tate, London including his four paintings by Wilson. These were:

P93A Lake Avernus and the Island of Capri
P104 Strada Nomentana - I
P137 The Villa of Maecenas at Tivoli
P138 The West Belvedere at Hadrian's Villa,Tivoli.

The latter two small landscapes were among the very first British 'old masters' he acquired. All four were engraved and featured in The Art Journal and S.C. Hall's three-volume catalogue, The Vernon Gallery, 1854 (see E83, E85, E88 and E91). A description of the collection accompanies his portrait by H.W. Pickersgill, as no. 1 in volume 1 (unpaginated).
14/02/2018