View of the Wilderness in St. James's Park

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View of the Wilderness in St. James's Park
View of the Wilderness in St. James's Park
View of the Wilderness in St. James's Park
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
title=Credit line
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
View of the Wilderness in St. James's Park
Between 1770 and 1775 (undated)
Oil on canvas
Metric: 43.2 x 53.3 cm
Imperial: 17 x 21 in.
Accession Number
Wilson Online Reference
The view is from the island in St James's Park known as The Wilderness, looking out across the sluice towards fashionably attired figures promenading along the Mall in the middle distance. Their richly coloured costumes, in combination with the typically Wilsonesque celestial backlighting, are brought into focus by a lone child in the foreground who kneels to feed a squirrel.
RA 1779 (354 - a version); Hull 1936 (29), lent Sir Hickman Bacon; London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982-83 (142); Denver 1993 (8)
Sir Hickman Bacon (1855-1945); Sir Edmund Bacon; Sir Nicholas Bacon; acquired by Yale Center for British Art, 1965
Unsigned; no inscription
Techniques and materials
High gloss finish. Some underpaint shows through the tree on the left but dabs of blue are visible on top of the tree at the right. Good reflections of trees in the water. Sensitive and well articulated lighting centre foreground with beautifullyl lit figures and reflections in the background. The trees at the left are well outlined. There are some pentimenti between the branches in the lit space at the left. Pentimento/reinforcement of style - strategically placed figure in the foreground. The joining horizontal over the dip in the trees is ambiguous.
On back, label of R. & W. Clarke 40/41 Grand Parade, Cork
Previously thought to be a view of Rosamund's Pond at the south-west end of St James's Park, which was filled in in 1770. The location has been identified as the Wilderness, an island in the south eastern corner of the park, designed for the breeding of wildfowl. Mentioned by Alexander Pope in The Rape of the Lock, it was one of the few remaining wild corners of central London.
Related Drawings
D372 Woodland Scene, Tate, London
D373 Study for the Wilderness in St. James's Park (Stream and Willows), The British Museum (1881, 0212.9)
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Critical commentary
The work is possibly that recorded by Benjamin Booth as '21 The Wilderness called Duck Island formerly in St James's Park (finished picture 21 3/4 - 17)' [Booth Notes, Doc. 9]. Katharine Baetjer has noted the darkly mysterious mood of the picture,'despite the fact that it shows only a kneeling boy and, strolling along the canal in a distant beam of bright light, the fashionably dressed ladies and gentlemen of the town'.
Previous Cat/Ref Nos
Object ID: 384
Booth Notes, Doc. 9 (21?); WGC, p. 235, pl. 138c; Solkin 1978, p. 410, n. 31, fig. 6; Solkin 1982 pp. 246-47; Cormack 1985, pp. 254 & 255; Baetjer 1993, pp. 102-103
Foamboard backboard. Simple weave canvas, 15 threads per square cm. Original turnover edges removed and work relined onto a slightly heavier simple weave linen canvas. Stretcher: five members with square mortice joints and provision for keying out probably dates from relining. The X-ray shows the original canvas is in fairly good condition with only a minor tear with paint loss at centre left edge. Otherwise undamaged. Ground appears to be off-white or cream coloured where visible at lower corners and centre left hand edge. Under UV some retouching is visible over the varnish in tree foliage centre left and right and also in centre sky where tree-line dips. There are retouches around foreground figure and above the distant figure group in the tree trunks. Upper left and right sky appear to be retouched under the present varnish.
Updated by Compiler
2019-09-10 00:00:00