Wilson Online Reference
Carey 1809
William Paulet Carey
Letter to I*** A***** Esq. A Connoisseur, in London
Privately published
Date of Publication
Primary published
Source Institution
The Getty Research Institute/Online Access
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Printed by R. and W. Dean, 33, Market Street Lane, Manchester 'for private distribution in an amateur circle.'
Full Text
[Relevant sections include:] We are never dazzled by the brightness of CLAUDE or WILSON. It steals with a mellowed glow upon the spectator, through the harmonious expanse of a pure atmosphere. Their splendour is more enchanting because thus softened, as the eye of Beauty glances with more prevailing power thorugh the delicate medium of a transparent veil. [p. 8] In contemplating the Deluge, by NICHOLAS POUSSIN, and the landscape of the St. Peter's Martyrdom by TITIAN, a religious mind feels an impression of the Deity, similar to that which we are sensible of, when wandering on a sea shore, or in an expansive prospect. Then the omnipotent Creator speaks to us in his works, and we more than ever feel the consciousness of our divine origin. The superior landscapes of GASPAR and RUBENS; of CLAUDE and WILSON, the sublime scenery and tremendous tones, of FRANCESCO MOLA, awaken the same exalted emotion. [pp. 12-13] [Joseph Wright of Derby] was intimate with WILSON, whose abilities he justly estimated; and, whenever he was in London he rarely failed to visit his great, but amicable Rival. In coversing together, familiarly, one day, upon the subject of their Art WRIGHT proposed to eexchange one of his for one of WILSON'S. The latter assented with the easy consciousness of his own particular excellence, as distinguished from the particular excellence of his friend; 'with all my heart, WRIGHT - I'll give you air, and you'll give me fire.' The above unquestionable anecdote is important, as it shows that WILSON acknowledged the superior power of WRIGHT, in fire-light subjects: but was of opinion he wanted aerial effect, in his day-light scenery. This latter opinion, however, can be considered only comparatively: that he thought WRIGHT did not paint the effects of air with the same degree of excellence as he, himself, did; and it is known, that, in aerial perspective, WILSON considered himself above every Rival. The very proposal may be supposed to imply on the part of WRIGHT, an ingenuous acknowledgement of WILSON's superiority in this particular. I have never heard that WILSON imitated WRIGHT; but we know that WRIGHT avowedly imitated WILSON; and, in such circumstances, reached his glow, and aerial effect, to admiration. There is one of his smaller landscapes, in this style, now in the possession of F.D. ASTLEY, at Dukinfield, painted with a sweetness of pencil, which, in pictures of a confined size, WILSON occasionally wanted. In his small landscapes, the touch, of the latter Artist, is often as large and full of colour, as in his great compositions: in these, his pencil has a conscious power and decided character, above all commendation. It appears to me, from a view of WRIGHT's various works, as a portrait painter, a painter of history, and of landscape, that his mind was of a wider compass; that is, it possessed a power in more departments of Art, than that of WILSON; but WILSON, in his particular province, as a Landscape Painter, took a more elevated and broader view of Nature, in her general character. WRIGHT in particular effects surpassed WILSON. WILSON, in general effects, surpassed WRIGHT. [pp. 21-22] WILSON also, originally, practised portrait painting; and followed that profession, for many years. It appears therefore that he comenced his studies with the *noblest object [footnote: That is, the naked figure, the great basis of Art] the human figure [footnote: This is founded on a supposition WILSON studied the naked figure, and the casts from the antique statues, as much, or as little, as SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS, and the other Portrait Painters of that day. I have no where met with any correct account of WILSON. He has not had, like WRIGHT, the advantage of a faithful Biographer to narrate his professional progress to Posterity. But I have heard it affirmed, and I have somewhere read, that he studied under HUDSON, at the same time with REYNOLDS, WRIGHT and MORTIMER [ ... ] BARRY, who was an enthusiastic admirer of WILSON's landscapes, in his vague account of that Artist, declares that the 'mediocrity' of his portraits 'afforded no luminous hope of excellence.' BARRY would certainly not have put this report of others upon lasting record in the Painter's Dictionary, if he did not conceive it to be true; or if he himself had ever met with any of WILSON's portraits, to justify a more favourable conclusion. [p. 23] FUSELI gives a decided opinion upon WILSON's figures - Figures it is difficult to say, which of the two handled with greater infelicity; treated by CLAUDE or WILSON, St. URSULA with her Virgins, and AENEAS landing; NIOBE with her family or CEYX drawn on the shore, have an equal claim on our indifference or mirth. [p. 24]