Wilson Online Reference
Whitley 1700-1799
William Thomas Whitley
Artists and their Friends in England 1700-1799
Medici Society
USA and UK
Date of Publication
Secondary published
More Information
Published in two volumes by the Medici Society, Ltd in London and The Medici Society of America in Boston. Vol. 1 has 401 pp. with 17 monochrome pls. Wilson is mentioned on pp. 117, 118, 163, 169, 195, 198-99, 276-77, 342, 343, 351 & 380-88. The latter are too lengthy to quote in full but they contain among other things anecdotes of Wilson by Beechey, the famous assessment of him by 'Peter Pindar' [Pindar 1782], a detailed description and diagram of Wilson's palette and Wilson's letter to Admiral Smith of 1751 [Wilson 1751]. A letter to the Morning Post protesting at Reynolds's criticism of Wilson's Niobe [P90] in his 14th Discourse is also quoted at length [see Text below]. Vol. 2 has 419 pp. with seven monochrome pls and an index to both vols. Wilson is mentioned on pp. 70, 202-3, 277, 307 & 373.
Full Text
Noteworthy extracts from the text: [...] John Bannister, who worked at the Academy schools before he became an actor [...] talking long afterwards to Sir George Beaumont about Wilson, said, 'I have him now before me,' and then, walking round the table, his hands behind him, he acted Wilson to the life:- 'The Librarian's voice was no less gruff than his manner. Wilson, hobbling round the library table and suddenly stopping. "What are you about, Sir? What are you doing?" "I am sketching, Sir." "Sketching! Take your hands off the book, boy." "And what are you about?" (addressing another)."Drawing from this print." "Drawing! Don't paw the leaves, Sirrah. You'll spoil the book. What - have you got eyes in your fingers, boy?"' [Vol. 1, pp. 276-77] Letter to the Morning Post, ?December 1788 quoted: 'It is an extraordinary circumstance that Sir Joshua Reynolds in his last discourse to the Academy should have so slightly touched on the character of so eminent an artist as the late Wilson - a classic in landscape. How has the President's liberality slept! Why was not the great artist mentioned in the President's discourse that succeeded poor Wilson's death? Where was the candour in condemning a few peccadilloes such as the introduction of unnecessary figures into his landscape, when such a field presented itself for applause? In general, Wilson's figures are introduced with the happiest effect and touched with inimitable spirit. Should not some of these have been adverted to, and have raised a tone of admiration? Fie, Sir Joshua! You disclaimed in your Academic discourse an imputed mean jealousy of Gainsborough. Upon what principle will you justify your long silence on the great abilities of Wilson, and the illiberal attack upon him when his universal fame forced him on your attention and rendered him an object of remark?' [Pp. 382-83] Letter of Jacob More to Thomas Harvey of Catton, near Norwich, dated April 1790 quoted: [...] 'I have lately purchased some landscapes by Momper, they are astonishingly clever from the effect, and the figures remarkably well placed, and are fine examples for massing. I remember Mr. Wilson mentioning this master to me, and one may see that he looked at them himself. [...] This master lived about the time of Claude Lorraine, the colouring is brilliant.' [Vol. 2, pp. 202-3]