About the Richard Wilson Online Catalogue Raisonné

About the Project

Richard Wilson Online is the outcome of ongoing intensive research undertaken since October 2009 with a view to re-establishing the artist’s true status and redefining his authentic oeuvre. The project aims to update and assimilate the magisterial catalogue raisonné published by Professor W.G. Constable in 1953 and Sir Brinsley Ford’s The Drawings of Richard Wilson of 1951 (still the only book on the subject). In addition it is intended to add a commentary on the prints after Wilson’s works, which were a crucial instrument in their public reception. By its nature such an undertaking is lengthy and for this reason Richard Wilson Online is presented as a work-in-progress.

Over the last seven decades many of the paintings and drawings discussed have changed ownership, or, where scholarship has moved on, have acquired new commentaries or even attributions. Inevitably new works have also emerged, especially in the light of Professor David Solkin’s ground-breaking exhibition Richard Wilson: The Landscape of Reaction, held in 1982-83 in London, Cardiff and New Haven. Richard Wilson Online seeks to include the latest research, providing an up-to-date, evolving and accessible record of Wilson’s autograph paintings and works on paper as a research tool for a modern audience, whether professionals or members of the public.

The project is funded by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London. The managing curator and compiler of the catalogue raisonné is Dr Paul Spencer-Longhurst, formerly Senior Research Fellow at the Centre and Senior Curator and Senior Lecturer in the History of Art at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham. He has greatly benefited from the expertise and generous collaboration of Emeritus Professor David Solkin, formerly Dean and Deputy Director of the Courtauld Institute, London, and of Kate Lowry, formerly Chief Conservator of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, a specialist in Wilson’s materials and techniques.

The launch of the project was timed to coincide with the exhibition, Richard Wilson and the Transformation of European Landscape Painting, shown at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, from March to June 2014 and Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales from July to October 2014, in celebration of the tercentenary of Wilson’s birth. The research and expertise invested in that exhibition by its curators, Drs Martin Postle, Robin Simon, Scott Wilcox and Oliver Fairclough, as well as by the numerous scholars contributing to its catalogue, were invaluable aids to the project. In addition, Maisoon Rehani worked tirelessly procuring images and permissions as did Peter Thomas on all technical issues. The supporting software for the project was devised and built by iBase Ltd. To them and to the many colleagues in the professional art world and private collectors too numerous to record individually, the compiler owes an enormous debt of gratitude. Their contributions to Richard Wilson Online were truly invaluable and are here gratefully acknowledged (see 'Acknowledgements' below and 'Credits' page for general acknowledgements).

Richard Wilson RA

Richard Wilson was born 300 years ago, on 1 August 1713 or 1714 - the exact year remains uncertain - in Penegoes. Montgomeryshire (now Powys), North Wales. He grew up to become not only the leading British landscapist of his generation but one of the great artistic pioneers of the 18th century. More than a decade older than his better known contemporary, Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), Wilson was highly popular for a time in his own day - not least because he made landscape painting something more than merely topographical or descriptive, endowing it with classical and historical associations and in doing so, raising its status as a genre.

Beginning his career as a portraitist, as which he was proficient and moderately successful, Wilson came to landscape only at the age of about 40, during the years that he spent in Italy from 1750-1757. He was first encouraged to change course by Francesco Zuccarelli (1702-1788), whom he met in Venice in 1751. Soon afterwards, in Rome he was befriended by the renowned French landscapist, Claude-Joseph Vernet (1714-1789), who strongly recommended landscape as a genre in preference to portraiture. On Wilson’s return to London, he established a fashionable studio in the affluent Piazza of Covent Garden. He went on to become a founding member of the Society of Artists in 1760 and of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768, and he showed his works successfully at exhibitions at both institutions.

In later years, however, for reasons that are still unclear, Wilson’s reputation underwent a rapid decline from which it recovered only slowly after his death in 1782 - and from which it has still suffered until recently. Turning increasingly to drink in his last years, he was temporarily rescued from indigence by his fellow Royal Academicians, who in 1776 appointed him to the post of Librarian at an annual salary of £50. However, Wilson was unable even to continue with this beyond 1781 and retired that year to the home of his cousin, Catherine Jones at Colomendy Hall, Denbighshire (now Clwyd), where he died on 11 May 1782. He is buried in nearby Mold churchyard.


The compiler has benefited immeasurably through help, advice and co-operation from numerous colleagues, collectors and collections across the world, and while hesitant to name individuals for fear of invidious omissions, cannot refrain from acknowledging among them with heartfelt thanks the special contributions of Krzys Adamiec, Julian Agnew, Brian Allen, Emily Arnold, Sean Bowen, Mark Box, David Briden, Charlotte Brunskill, James Brunskill, Lee Carney, Christopher Chard, Howard Crawford, David Dallas, Ben Elwes, Donato Esposito, Mark Evans, Oliver Fairclough, Emma Floyd, Julian Gascoigne, Alex Gorford, Bendor Grosvenor, Mark Hallett, Emmeline Hallmark, John Hammond, Jerry Hardyman-Jones, Jenny Hill, Matthew Hollow, Kasha Jenkinson, Clementine Kerr, Martine la Roche, Alastair Laing, Sandra de Laszlo, Lowell Libson, Richard Lines, Matt Lloyd, Peter Lord, Kate Lowry, Beth McIntyre, Lydia Miller, Anthony Misquitta, David Moore-Gwyn, Anthony Mould, Philip Mould, Owen O'Rorke, David Penman, Martin Postle, Antonia Reeve, Maisoon Rehani, Sarah Ruddick, Francis Russell, Malcolm Secrett, Matt Secrett, Robin Simon, Kumar Singaravelou, David Solkin, Sue, Flora and Rose Spencer-Longhurst, Lindsay Stainton, Richard Stephens, Studio Edmark Photography, Peter Thomas, Charlotte Topsfield, Christina Tse-Fong-Tai, Elisabetta Tuan, Kitty Turner, Sarah Victoria Turner, Richard Verdi, Trev and Drisc Wardle, Ian Warrell, Scott Wilcox, Timothy Wilcox, David Wilson, Andrew Wilton, Miles Wynn Cato and Jonathan Yarker.

Using this Site

The site offers alternative ways of navigating the works of Richard Wilson and related exhibition, bibliographic and biographical resources:

  1. Browse all works (see ‘Browse All Works’ on the menu bar) or browse paintings, drawings and prints specifically (see ‘Paintings’, ‘Drawings’, ‘Prints’ on the menu bar).
  2. The ‘Quick Search’ box top right enables you to type in a general search term or the use of ‘Advanced Search’ at the bottom of the menu bar, allows you to search by specific fields (e.g. date or provenance) in the four separate areas – works of art, biographies, documents (bibliographic resources) or exhibitions.
  3. View works by collection – see ‘Wilson Collections’ on the menu bar. This enables you to filter by public/private collections and by geographic region, while the ‘Wilson Collections Map’ on the menu bar allows you to access an interactive world map of public collections that can be clicked on or searched to bring up all collections in a city, country or region. Clicking on a specific collection brings up the list of works in that collection.
  4. Browse biographies that have a bearing on the works of Richard Wilson (e.g. collectors, patrons or sitters) – see ‘Biographies’ on the menu bar.
  5. Browse bibliographic resources that relate to the work of Richard Wilson (e.g. exhibition catalogues) – see ‘Bibliographical Resources’ on the menu bar.
  6. Explore exhibitions that have featured the artist’s work – see ‘Tercentenary Exhibition’ and ‘Other Exhibitions’ on the menu bar.
  7. To move from browsing works on the Gallery Page View to viewing details of the work on the Work of Art Detail Page, click on the thumbnail image, which will take you to the Work of Art Detail Page. This contains two tabs, the first - ‘Details’ - contains information about the work, including its catalogue number, the ‘Wilson Online Reference’. The ‘Wilson Online Reference’ indicates whether it is a painting, drawing or print (paintings are numbered with P prefix, drawings with D and prints with E) and how it relates to other works that are versions (e.g. the various versions of Solitude are all numbered in the series P114 with varying suffixes, A, B, C etc.). A prefix NW indicates that, in the compiler’s opinion, the work is not, or not exclusively by Wilson himself. The second tab - 'Links' - gives access to related biographies, bibliographic resources, exhibitions and related works of art.
  8. Clicking on the ‘larger image’ icon below the image enables you to zoom in and view specific areas of the work in more detail. The larger image opens in a separate window - to view the image and read the text below it at the same time, or to compare two images, you can move the window to a suitable position. If you are interested in licensing any of the images, you can click on the ‘To license this image’ link below the image which will lead you to the relevant collection homepage.
  9. To view the individual pages of a sketchbook or bound volume of prints in its entire context, go to the ‘Links’ tab to the right of the ‘Details’ tab in Work of Art Item Detail View and click on the ‘View sketchbook pages’ link. This link will enable you to look through the pages of the book.
  10. To register and log into a personalised account, go to the ‘Register’ and ‘Log in’ links to the left of ‘Quick Search’ top right. Registering and logging in will allow you to save selected works in your own lightbox and email this lightbox to others.
  11. If you have feedback about the Site in general or any specific works, you can email the compiler via ‘Contact Us’ on the bottom menu bar.
  12. To look up an abbreviation (including exhibition, biography and bibliography abbreviations), attributional convention or the definition of a technical term, please see ‘Glossary’ below.
  13. To reference the site please use the following citation: Spencer-Longhurst, Paul, with Kate Lowry and David Solkin, Richard Wilson Online: A Digital Catalogue Raisonné, (London: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2014).