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Snowdon from Llyn Nantlle
Nottingham Castle
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Snowdon from Llyn Nantlle
c.1765-67 (undated)
Oil on canvas
103.6 x 126.3 cm.
40 3/4 x 49 3/4in.
NMC 1904-85
P152A
The view is eastward from the western end of Llyn Nantlle lake, where a stream called Afon Llyfynwy runs out of the lake. In the central distance is Y Wyddfa, the summit of Snowdon, and beneath it is a sunlit knoll known as Clogwyn y Gareg. In the middle ground are the slopes of Mynydd Mawr (left) and two unidentified peaks on the right.
SA January 1766 (189 - a version: North-west view of Snowden and its environs); BI 1849 (115); London 1925 (47); Manchester 1925 (68); Liverpool 1933; London 1934 (173); Birmingham, Art Treasures of the Midlands, 1934 (298); Hull 1936 (52 - Snowdon); Paris 1938 (154); London, Roland Browse and Delbanco 1946, Lyrical Pictures in British Art; Birmingham 1948-9 (45); London 1949 (44); on loan to Laing Art Gallery Newcastle 1953; Rotterdam 1955 (68); Leicester 1956, A Hundred Years of British Landscape Painting 1750-1850; Montreal 1957 (78); Moscow 1960 (16); London Royal Academy 1962, Primitives to Picasso (298); Herron Museum of Art USA 1965, The Romantic Era 1750-1850 (17); British Council 1966-67, Cologne, Rome, Zurich, Warsaw, British Painting; Welsh Arts Council 1969/70 Old Master Touring Exhibition (11); British Council Japan 1970-71, English Landscape Painting; Paris 1972 (337); Milan 1975 British Painting 1660-1840 (48); Hamburg Kunsthalle 1975, Turner and the Landscape of his Times; Australia 1977-78, British 17th and 18th Century Painting; London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982-83 (117b); Madrid 1988-89 (11); Toshigi and Shizuoka Prefectural Museums Japan 1992-93, Sun, Wind and Rain: The Awakening of British Landscape Painting (22); London, Royal Academy 1998, Art Treasures of England (48)
Bequeathed by Richard Godson Millns, 1904
Unsigned, no inscription
The pinkish background or underpainting visible at the upper left and the nicely impastoed clouds upper left denote the work as authentic. The foreground is thinly painted with unresolved leaves and highlighting. There is overpaint or simplificatioin along the mountain tops at the upper right edge.
Snowdon is the highest mountain in Britain. Constable noted that a year after Wilson's death, Thomas Pennant wrote of 'two fine lakes called Llynnieu Nantlle which form two handsome expanses, with a very small distance between them. From hence is a noble view of the Wyddfa, which terminates the view through the visto of Drws y Coed. It is from this spot Mr. Wilson has favoured us with a view, as magnificent as it is faithful .' Pennant concluded, 'Few are sensible of this for few visit the spot.'
D367 Study for Snowdon from Llyn Nantlle, The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California
E30 William Woollett after Wilson Snowden Hill and the adjacent Country in North Wales (1775); other states and impressions
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[1] Thomas Sunderland Snowdon from Llyn Nantlle watercolour, National Museum Wales, NMW A 5767
[2] J.M.W. Turner, Buttermere Lake, with Part of Cromackwater, Cumberland, a Shower, RA 1798, Tate, London (N00460 )
Wilson shows great sensitivity to the site and his sense of design and tonal value invests the rugged grandeur of his native Welsh mountains with a strong and timeless dignity, emphasised by the distant smoke seemingly suspended in the atmosphere and rendering the human activity in the foreground and on the lake insignificant and transitory. Yet, as Kidson has remarked, while continuing to echo the precepts of Claude and Dughet, Wilson has here fused them with a concern for the particular in nature which became one of the mainsprings of Romanticism. Seen at such a distance, the peaks seem to mark the protective boundaries of an enclosed garden, an Arcadian retreat for moral contemplation. Overall the picture appears strangely empty, lacking any birds in the sky.
Pennant 1784 vol. 2, p. 188; Rutter 1923, appendix III; J. B. Manson, The Burlington Magazine, vol. 67, 1925, p. 40, pl. 11c; Pantheon, vol. 13, 2 February 1934, p. 52; Commemorative Catalogue 1934 (100, pl. XXXVI); R. Edwards, 'Richard Wilson II - Mood in Landscape-Painting', Country Life, November 23, 1945, pp. 914-15; Waterhouse 1953, p. 176; WGC, p. 186, under pl. 55; Plates 1957 no.1; F.I. McCarthy, 'Wilson's Snowdon: Its Bi-centenary January 1966', National Library of Wales Journal XIV 1966, pp. 361-65; Herrmann 1973, p. 57, col. pl. VI; Solkin 1982, pp. 225-26, no. 117b; Wilton 1984, p. 65; exh. cat. Art Treasures of England: The Regional Collections 1998, p. 124, repr.; Wilson and Europe 2014, pp. 26, fig. 27 & p. 265
A currently untraced version attributed to 'R. Wilson' together with an impression of Woollett's engraving E30 was sold at Christie's, 13 January 1894 (37) - bt Andrews (20 gns). Measuring 48 x 48 1/2 in. it was from the collection of Thomas Woolner R.A. and had been exhibited at the Royal Academy Winter Exhibition of 1872 (24). [Information kindly supplied by Donato Esposito]
Repaired tears in the right central area. Cleaned by Arthur Lucas in 1957. Glue relined; Stretcher probably dates from lining. Vection cracks show that the original stretcher bars were 2 1/2 ins. wide. Lining was probably carried out because of long vertical tears in the canvas just right of centre. These are visible in normal light and under UV. Original turnover edges removed at time of lining but the present edges of the painted canvas do not appear to have been trimmed as they are slightly uneven and show some exposed ground, especially at upper left edge. Ground is pinkish in colour and probably a commercial preparation. There are no pentimenti, suggesting that this is a secondary version.