Lydford Waterfall, Tavistock (A Welsh Waterfall) (Pistyll Cain)

Lydford Waterfall, Tavistock (A Welsh Waterfall) (Pistyll Cain)
Lydford Waterfall, Tavistock (A Welsh Waterfall) (Pistyll Cain)
Lydford Waterfall, Tavistock (A Welsh Waterfall) (Pistyll Cain)
National Museum Wales, Cardiff
title=Credit line
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Lydford Waterfall, Tavistock (A Welsh Waterfall) (Pistyll Cain)
c.1771-72 (undated)
Oil on canvas
Metric: 169.4 x 165 cm
Imperial: 66 5/8 x 65 in.
Accession Number
NMW A 63
Wilson Online Reference
A waterfall cascades from the right down a steep wooded slope with a high rock behind
Royal Albert Memorial Museum Exeter & Djanogly Art Gallery University of Nottingham 1995, The Perfection of England (86); London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982-83 (135); Los Angeles County Museum of Art, late 1990s
Painted together with P174 The Keep of Okehampton Castle for William 2nd Viscount Courtenay (1742-1788), probably in 1771; 3rd Viscount Courtenay, sold Christie's 27 April 1816 (81 - A Grand View of Lydford Waterfall, Tavistock, Devon, with the rich adjacent scenery, the companion picture and equally capital), bt 70 guineas; Gladstone family, Hawarden Castle, Flintshire, as A Waterfall in Merioneth; C. Gerald Agnew; Thomas Agnew & Sons, 24 January 1927 (#6638); presented to the National Museum of Wales by Henry Neville Gladstone, Lord Gladstone of Hawarden, 1927.
Unsigned; no inscription
Techniques and materials
SEM analysis shows pigments typical of Wilson's palette and the commercially prepared double priming of pale grey is correct for the period. The IR image shows a small figure possibly with a bow standing on a rock, centre right. Solkin emphasised the consistently sober palette in both P174 and P175, stressing deep greens and browns, with little in the way of extraneous or reflected colour in the foliage and land masses. He also noted the closeness in modelling of the rock-faces of the present work to that of P166 View near Wynnstay.
Related Paintings
Pendant: P174 The Keep of Okehampton Castle, Manchester City Galleries (1903.5)
Related Works by Other Artists
William Hodges, Dusky Bay, 1775, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Critical commentary
This is one of a pair of Devon views, the other being The Keep of Okehampton Castle (Manchester City Art Gallery). Both were painted for the 2nd Viscount Courtenay of Powderham Castle, Devon in or just after 1771. The title, pairing and identification of the patron were based by David Solkin on evidence in Memorandum Book of Richd. Wilson R.A., Victoria & Albert Museum (P.94-1921), ff. 1-6. Solkin also observed that P174 and P175 both correspond precisely in handling to what might be expected from this point in Wilson's career, having stylistic affinities to his contemporary Wynnstay views (P165 & P166). He also drew attention to the indebtedness of both Devon scenes to Jacob van Ruisdael and 17th century Dutch landscapes, notably in their particularity, as well as pointing to their pre-Romantic emotive appeal as portrayals of the Picturesque (castle) and Sublime (cataract).
Previous Cat/Ref Nos
The Connoisseur, May 1927, p. 59; WGC, pp. 94, 184, pl. 52b as A Welsh Waterfall, Pistyll Cain, Merionethshire; Cardiff 1961, pp. 26-27 (as Pistyll Cain, Merioneth); Herrmann 1973, p. 57, pl. 49A (as Pistyll Cain , Merioneth); Solkin 1982, pp. 239-41; S. Smiles & M. Pidgley, exh. cat., The Perfection of England: Artist Visitors to Devon, c. 1750-1870, Exeter & Nottingham 1995, pp. 109, 111; Quilley & Bonehill 2004, p. 112
Relined, cleaned and restored by Reginald Hoare, 1970.
Kate Lowry has noted: Original linen canvas, simple weave, medium weight. The weave texture is quite prominent through the paint layer, possibly due to pressure applied during lining. Original turnovers were retained at time of lining and attachment to stretcher is through original and lining turnovers. Commercially prepared oil ground, pale grey in colour, covering the entire upper surface of the canvas including turnover edges. Cross-section samples taken show two layers of grey ground. Opaquely painted throughout with strong impasto in clouds and water in foreground. Paint applied quite fluidly. There is considerable fading of the Prussian blue in the sky. The areas covered by the frame rebate are much brighter blue than the exposed areas. Some mature cracks but none with raised edges. No drying cracks. Two fairly large damages at centre and left hand areas of sky have been retouched on top of the present varnish. Other minor retouches are present in sky and landscape (in field at left and above fallen tree bottom right.) Some strengthening of the horizon, the figures on the hill and the foreground figures. Minor losses at left and right hand edges of sky have been left unfilled and un-retouched. Thick, aged resin varnish coating covers the landscape whilst the sky has been selectively cleaned. The whole painting has a modern resin varnish coating of even gloss probably dating from the cleaning and lining of 1970.