View of the Thames at Purfleet, Essex

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View of the Thames at Purfleet, Essex
View of the Thames at Purfleet, Essex
View of the Thames at Purfleet, Essex
Private Collection / Photo: Matthew Hollow
title=Credit line
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
View of the Thames at Purfleet, Essex
Oil on canvas
Metric: 86.7 x 123.4 cm [sight size]
Imperial: 34 1/8 x 48 9/16 in. [sight size]
Private Collection, London
Wilson Online Reference
Perhaps Caleb Grantham, High House, Purfleet (d.1762) [...] Lancelot Hugh Smith, Mount Clare, Roehampton, London S.W.15; Private Collection, London
Unsigned; no inscription
[1] Lower left corner, handwritten label: Richard Wilson, View of Mill Lane, Stifford, Purfleet. September 1980
[2] Round label lower left, handwritten: 172
Purfleet is a port on the Thames on the way to Tilbury. From the 1760s it housed the important Royal Gunpowder Magazines.
Critical commentary
Perhaps an unfinished early work, though the cypress trees and urn on column at the top of the promontory have a strong Italian feel. The painting could thus be an early example of Wilson's estate portraiture following his return from Italy in 1757.
C. Hussey, 'Mount Clare - I, Roehampton: The Residence of Mr Lancelot Hugh Smith', Country Life, vol 77, 26 January 1935, pp. 90-94; C. Hussey, 'Mount Clare - II, Roehampton: The Residence of Mr Lancelot Hugh Smith', Country Life, vol. 77, 2 February 1935, pp. 118-123, esp. p. 122
Kate Lowry has noted: Frame: Carved wood, rococo style, possibly mid-19th century. Not glazed or backed. Support: The original canvas is simple weave, medium weight linen and this has been relined onto a similar weight linen canvas using an animal glue adhesive. The adhesion between the lining and original appears good. It was not possible to see if the original turnovers survive, but the attachment to the present stretcher appears good. Accessory support: The present stretcher is not original, but probably dates from the present lining. This is a seven-member pine stretcher, in good condition, with square mortice joints and provision for keying out. Three labels could be seen at the reverse: one at lower right gives the title and was placed there by the present owner, and a circular label bears the number '172'. It was impossible to read the one at the centre of the stretcher cross-members. Ground: A pale, possibly cream-coloured oil ground, smooth in texture, underlies the paint film. This appears to be in good condition. Paint film: Oil medium. Smoothly painted. The sky and distant landscape seen from a relatively high point, are full of light, and are an excellent example of Wilson's mastery of aerial perspective. The ships on the river are delicately painted. The deep tones of the middle ground landscape contrast strongly with the bright tones of the sky, the distant landscape and the river, and this part of the painting contains a few compositional traits that are typical of Wilson, such as the light shining through the trunks of a grove of trees toward the right of centre, the fence at the left and the monument and cypress trees enclosed at the tip of the central rocky escarpment. UV examination reveals only minor retouches to the paint film over the present varnish film. The immediate foreground is difficult to interpret, mainly because it bears so little detail. Even the fallen column to the left of centre is quite unadorned. The remainder of the foreground consists of an undifferentiated expanse of pale green paint which is very uncharacteristic of Wilson. When viewed under UV light, a strip of slightly darker green paint, about 10 cm wide, running along the lower edge of the painting does not appear to hide any earlier major damages to the paint or ground, or any tack holes belonging to a previously higher turnover edge. The only possible explanation seems to be that this whole foreground area was left unfinished by the artist and that the darker green was applied later by another hand. This now underlies the present varnish. General conclusion: A good example of Wilson's early style, but let down by the lack of detail in the foreground.