Ruined Tower with Figures

Ruined Tower with Figures
Ruined Tower with Figures
Ruined Tower with Figures
Bristol City Museum and Gallery, UK / The Bridgeman Art Library
title=Credit line
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Ruined Tower with Figures
c.1770-79 (undated)
Oil on oak panel
Metric: 15.7 x 17.1 cm [sight size in frame]
Imperial: 6 3/16 x 6 3/4 in. [sight size in frame]
Accession Number
BAG 714722
Wilson Online Reference
On the right is a tower, with figures standing a little to the left of a broken arch abutting the tower and overgrown with foliage. Another ruin stands further back to the left, with sea visible beyond. A shaft of light slants downwards towards the right from a large opening in the clouds of a stormy sky, the whole surmounted by three birds in flight.
London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982-83 (143)
John Watkins Brett, Hanover Square, London; his sale, fifth day, Christie's, 9 April 1864 (697 - R. Wilson, A small landscape, with a ruin); Col. M.H. Grant, 1904; with W. Katz, Bruton Place and 11 Old Bond Sreet, London W.1; purchased by Bristol City Art Gallery, 1946
Unsigned; no inscription
Techniques and materials
Solkin noted that the oak support had not been properly squared, nor were its edges bevelled as one would expect from a prepared panel, suggesting the use of a scrap of wood when the artist's extreme poverty left him unable to afford canvas during his last years. In places the wood shows through the paint, possibly with no ground layer.
Collectors' marks
Verso: Said to be a seal of an oval containing a lion rampant (inaccessible when viewed)
Related Drawings
D361 Ruins and Figures, The British Museum (1881,0212.26)
D361A Landscape: Road winding past Ruins of a Castle, Victoria & Albert Museum, London (Dyce.645)
Related Prints
E60/16 John Whessell after Wilson, Studies & Designs: View of a ruined Tower with three Figures gathered in front, The British Museum and other impressions
E72/16 Thomas Hastings, Untitled, The British Museum (1854,0708.73) and other impressions
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Critical commentary
Very competently painted despite the small scale, unusual support and relatively late date. An upright variant of this composition was etched by Hastings in 1821, when it was in the Ford collection. The etching is inscribed 'Painted by R. Wilson 1771'. As noted by Ford, Farington's copy of a similar composition in his 1765 Victoria & Albert Museum sketchbook differs from both the present painting and known drawings (D361 Ruin and Figures, The British Museum and D361A Landscape; Road winding past Ruins of a Castle, Victoria & Albert Museum) and may thus have been copied from an earlier painting of the subject.
Previous Cat/Ref Nos
Object No.: K1626
Ford 1951, p. 57 under no. 41; WGC, p. 221, pl. 112b; Constable 1962, p. 141, under no. 3; Solkin 1982, pp. 247-48
The stretcher size is recorded in the curatorial records as 17.8 x 16.2 cm (7 x 6 3/8 in.) Very good condition. Kate Lowry has commented: Panel is prepared with a red ground which is visible in the darks of the sea and clouds. Also at lower left and in the building at the right. There is a minor vertical crack in panel. Strong diagonal mature cracks in paint film. Paint applied loosely with impasto. Varnish film quite thick and slightly discoloured.