Wilson Online Reference
Anticipation 1779
'Roger Shanhagan'
The Exhibition, or a second Anticipation: being Remarks on the principal Works to be Exhibited next Month, at the Royal Academy
Richardson & Urquart
London, UK
Date of Publication
April 1779
Primary published
Source Institution
Bodleian Library, University of Oxford
Document Inventory/Accession No
(Vet.) 1706 e.287 (3)
More Information
101 pp., unillustrated, price 2s 6d. A pastiche of a famous political skit of 1778, in which Richard Tickell had given a satirical forecast of the King's Speech at the opening of Parliament. 'Shanhagan' (probably a pseudonym) sketches wholly imaginary pictures by Reynolds, Gainsborough, Wilson and others, accompanying his notes with running commentaries on the general characteristics of the work of the artists. Wilson is discussed on pp. 82-85.
Full Text
Mr. R. Wilson. A View on the Tyber, Ditto on the Alps. It will naturally be expected from the Artists I have already praised, that Mr. Wilson will not meet with my approbation; but since this gentleman is grown old in the service of the Art, and has been ever solicitous to wash away care, I am naturally of too tender a disposition to bring down his grey hairs with sorrow to the grave; and will, on that account, give praise to other besides Italian Beauties. The view on the Alps is chosen from that kind of nature which Mr. Wilson has often imitated, and in the composition he admits only general and great ideas, never stooping to the minutiae of objects. The view is taken from an elevated situation, from whence we look down into an immense bason, surrounded on every side by mountains rising up into the clouds, or hanging, in dreadful grandeur, over the lake. From the summit of one falls a great body of water, which forms the brightest part of the Picture; and, as it rushes down from rock to rock, spreads a whitening foam, that diffuses the Light, and brings up the Fore-ground, without injuring his work with forced Shadows and contrasted colours. The Objects are simple, bold, and majestic. Its colouring is grave and harmonious; all sudden transitions, either in Light and Shadow, or in Colouring, are judiciously avoided, as unsuitable to the dignity of the subject. In this, as in every other Picture, he has rejected, with a noble contempt, all the little beauties which deck the compositions of meaner Artists. The neglect of an agreeable Pencil, one would be apt to think, is carried aloft almost too far in his smaller Pictures, which being to be viewed near, would certainly require delicacy of execution, that, in larger works, would be injurious, and contrary to his principles. There is a terrible magnificence in the scene, that is perfectly agreeable to the idea annexed to it by his figures, which are but slight and spirited dashes of his Pencil, representing the passage of Hannibal into Italy, as defined by Livy. How exceedingly does the introducing a little story enrich a Landscape, which may not only be interesting in itself, but by a proper choice may impress the mind more strongly with the genius of the scene.The power that Landscape-painting has over the imagination, by leading it among the beauties that Nature has scattered over the face of the earth, is greatly enhanced, when it meets with a prospect that bears some allusion and analogy to particular sensations. The solemnity of the Groves, the rude force of Cataracts, and the gaiety of a Champain country, are not merely entertaining to the eye, but are suitable to certain dispositions of the mind, and, at certain seasons, are capable of affording us greater pleasure than the view of Trees or Fields that bear no characteristic Expression. It is the business of the Landscape-Painter to select the leading marks that are here and there to be found in Nature, and produce them in his several Pictures; and accordingly as they are impressed with character, they display the Genius of the Artist. But there are but few traits of the mind that can be shewn in Landscapes, and most that are within its power are very general and undeterminate. The inserting of figures is the best means of giving to the piece a decided character, and the use which Mr. Wilson has made of this cannot be too much praised, and deserves to be imitated by all who wish to lead the Imagination and entertain the Understanding. In a storm he has introduced the story of Niobe; and we may imagine that every part of the scene has its spirit and agitation from the angry Deities; and even some parts of it seem characterised by the ruin and distress of the unhappy family. In another he has given from Thomson the beautiful story of Celadon and Amelia; and we are apt to forget the painter, and ask, with Celadon, Wherefore has Heaven permitted this tumult in Nature? In a third, where the scene scarcely needed to be characterised, he has carried us into the grounds of Cicero, where he and his friends are conversing. Every touch of his Pencil wears an air of Classic grandeur, and the presence of that respectable and well-known group, sanctifies the whole piece, and brings to the mind those sublime discourses which were held on this spot, and which lend their character to the Picture. I shall add little upon his View on the Tyber. Though grand, its beauties are of a milder kind than the former, but executed with equal ability, and prove to us that this Artist is as capable of representing the Elegant as the Great scenes of Nature. [pp. 82-85]