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The River Dee near Eaton Hall
The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
The River Dee near Eaton Hall
c.1759-60 (undated)
Oil on canvas
54 x 88.6 cm
21 1/4 x 35 in.
37.11
P86
The view is near Eaton Hall, Cheshire. According to Howson (Westminster 1874) it is 'seen from a well-known point of view not very far below the point where the tributary joins the main river.' The river extends from the left foreground to the centre middle distance and is bordered on both sides by trees and bushes. At a bend in the middle distance there is a cottage and in a field to the left, cows are grazing. A tree in the right foreground extends its branches nearly halfway across the picture. The direction seems to be downstream, towards the northwest, Chester and the distant hills of Wales. The setting may be partly imaginary, however, as the mood is one of evening which the direction of the sun does not support.
Probably Society of Artists 21 April - 5 May 1760 (74) as 'A small landskip, the Banks of the Dee' ; BI 1814 (136/139 - View on the River Dee; Manchester 1857 (165 The Dee near Eaton); London International Exhibition 1862 (104); Wrexham 1876 (266); Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool on loan 1934-6; Hull 1936 (66 - added after the opening of the exhibition and lent by Archdeacon Howson); Birmingham 1948-9 (5); London 1949 (4); RSA Exhibition of Exhibitions 1951 (4); London, Tate Gallery & The Hague, Mauritshuis 1971, Shock of Recognition: The Landscape of English Romanticism and the Dutch seventeenth-century School (50); London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982-83 (83); National Gallery, May - September 2013, Masterpieces from the Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Painted for Sir Richard, later 1st Earl, Grosvenor; by descent, either at Grosvenor House, London or Eaton Hall, Cheshire; presented 1874 by the 1st Duke of Westminster to Dr J.S. Howson, Dean of Chester; thence by descent; purchased 1937 from the Howson family through Wildenstein & Co., 147 New Bond Street London W1
Signed in lower right corner: R.W. (italic capitals)
Writers from Elizabethan times, including Spenser and Milton, referred to an ancient tradition ascribing god-like qualities to the river Dee, prophetic for the fortunes of England and Wales, the countries lying to either side of it. Eaton Hall was the country seat of the first Earl Grosvenor.
D354 The Banks of the River Dee near Eaton Hall Cheshire, Art Institute of Chicago, Leonora Hall Gurley Collection
E25 Thomas Morris after Wilson, The Banks of the River Dee near Eaton, Cheshire, The British Museum & other impressions
E71/1 John Young after Wilson, View on the River Dee, near Eaton Hall, The British Museum
See 'Links' tab
P111 The Valley of the Dee with Chester in the Distance, The National Gallery, London
This is signed with an unusual form of Wilson's signature, which may suggest an early work. Wilson has used Cuyp as a stylistic model for some aspects of the work but takes inspiration from Claudean river variations, e.g. The Flight into Egypt (1663, Thyssen-Bonemisza Collection) which was also used as a basis for P66 Landscape Capriccio on the Via Aemilia .
J. Young, A Catalogue of the Pictures at Grosvenor House, London, 1821, p. 5, no. 12, repr.; R.& S. Redgrave, A Century of Painters, 1866, I, p. 103; Westminster 1874; J.S. Howson, The Dee, its Aspects and its History, Art Journal, June 1873, p. 164; Grant 1926-47, I, p. 58; A.C. Sewter, Burlington Magazine, LXXVIII, 1941, pp.9-11, repr.; Bury 1947, pp. 47, 65, pl. 37; B. Ford, Country Life, CIV, 1948, p. 1055; A.C. Sewter et al., Catalogue of the Paintings, Drawings and Miniatures in the Barber Insitute of Fine Arts, 1952, p. 120-21, repr.; WGC, pp. 89, 119, 173-4, pl. 34a (incorrectly repr. as 34c); Solkin 1978, pp. 407-8, fig. 3; Solkin 1982, pp. 197-98
The River Dee, Cheshire.
Even if it was not the picture exhibited at the Society of Artists in 1760, it must have been painted about that year, which is also the date of P86A (Petworth). In 1821 Young recorded P126 as hanging in the 'Anti Room' Grosvenor House.
The original canvas is simple weave linen with about 12 threads per square centimetre. This has been paste lined onto a much finer linen canvas probably in the mid to late 19th century. The stretcher has four members, 3 1/8 ins wide, and square mortice joints with provision for keying out. This is likely to have been acquired at the time of relining. Minor cracks to the paint surface near top edge and centre sky suggest the original stretcher had a vertical cross-member and members approx 1 3/4 inches wide. The original turnovers were not removed at the time of lining and are intact, apart from some tack damage. As there do not appear to be any damages to the original canvas it was probably relined to improve the attachment and canvas tension rather than for repair. The original turnovers are covered with a commercially-prepared ground, grey in colour. There are some small pentimenti in the tree branches at the upper right. Cleaned and revarnished by Holder in December 1937. The varnish is now yellowed. The paint layer has a fine overall drying cracking which is stable and some slight tenting at the top right possibly due to shrinkage during lining. A matt retouched loss is visible at the lower right.