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
View of the Wilderness in St James's Park
Private Collection, England
title=Credit line
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
View of the Wilderness in St James's Park
Oil on canvas
Metric: 43.5 x 53.4 cm
Imperial: 17 1/8 in. x 21 in.
Private Collection, England
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.
Possibly Spink & Son, 1951; bt by present owner; Sotheby's 8 December 2011 (283)
Unsigned; no inscription
Previously thought to be a view of Rosamund's Pond at the south-west end of St James's Park, which was filled 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 Wilderness in St. James's Park (Stream and Willows), The British Museum (1881, 0212.9)
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Related Works by Other Artists
Thomas Gainsborough The Mall in St James's Park, Frick Museum, New York
Critical commentary
Probably an autograph replica of P182 in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven. The handling of light and shade is extremely sensitive but the blocky, unarticulated building behind the trees on the left makes it possible that another hand has contributed to the picture. The artist drawing and the accompanying figure leaning against the tree at the left do not appear in P182. The red costume of the kneeling figure replaces the yellow of his equivalent in P182.
WGC, 138c (3)
More Information
This poetic landscape is a rare example of an English view by Wilson. Gainsborough painted similar scenes in St James's Park and the ruminative romance of this painting suggests that Wilson was tapping into this expressive and picturesque style in the last decade of his life, a move entirely consistent with changing contemporary tastes.