Apollo and the Seasons

Apollo and the Seasons
Apollo and the Seasons
Apollo and the Seasons
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
title=Credit line
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Apollo and the Seasons
Oil on canvas
Metric: 100.1 x 125.7 cm
Imperial: 39 7/16 x 49 1/2 in.
Accession Number
Wilson Online Reference
Apollo sitting to the left plays his lyre on Mount Olympus, raising his right hand towards the Seasons or Horae, four female figures who dance in a circle to the right. Two cherubs sit blowing bubbles nearby, in a landscape with an overgrown temple to right. There is a river running through the centre, mountains in the background and a square tower on the left bank in the middle ground.
RA 1779 (352) - a version; London, Arthur Tooth & Sons Ltd, Recent Acqusitions VII, 1951 (3); London, Goldsmith's Hall Treasures of Cambridge, 1959 (325); Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, London, Landscapes from the Fitzwilliam, 1974 (64); Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge 1976 The Fairhaven Fund: The first Quarter Century (102); Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, Beauty, Horror and Immensity - Picturesque Landscape in Britain, 1750-1850, 1981 (21); London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982-83 (131); Tokyo, Isetan Museum of Art, British Landscape Paintings from the Fitzwlliam Museum, September-October 1992 (3)
Sotheby's, property of a Lady, possibly Miss Turner, 6 March 1940 (25 Landscape (Lake Avernus)), bt Norris, £4; Christopher Norris sale, Christie's 4 July 1952 (20), bt Benson for Arthur Tooth & Sons Ltd, London; bt by Fitzwilliam Museum from Fairhaven Fund 1952
Unsigned; no inscription
Techniques and materials
The shorthand loops describing the foreground foliage and the mannered elongation of the figures, both comparable with the Wynnstay views of 1770-1 (P166 and P165 both in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art), suggest a similar dating for this painting. There is a pink tonality overall. Pentimenti are visible above the two towers of the castle and at its right extremity. The castle itself is vague and flat. The horizon of the landscape may once have been flatter and not mountainous. Note the out-of-scale cows in the background.
Verso inscriptions
[1] Chalk on stretcher: July [?] 6 - 23 [?]
[2] Graphite on stretcher: '415'
[3] Stencil on stretcher: Produce of England
[1] Exhibition
[2] Exhibition
[3] Exhibition
Based loosely on a passage from the Homeric Hymn to Apollo. The subject was popular with classical landscape painters of the 17th and 18th centuries. Apollo, god of the Sun, plays his lyre while the four Seasons dance to the music.
Related Prints
E24 Earlom after Wilson, Apollo and the Nymphs, Royal Academy of Arts, London
E24A Earlom and Sayer after Wilson, Apollo and the Nymphs, National Museum Wales, Cardiff
E24B Earlom after Wilson, Apollo and the Nymphs, The British Museum
E47 William Woollett and Benjamin Pouncy, after Mortimer after Wilson, Apollo and the Seasons, The British Museum
E47A William Woollett and Benjaminm Pouncy after Wilson, Apollo and the Seasons, Royal Academy of Arts, London
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Critical commentary
Solkin observed that the composition essentially reverses that of P119 Landscape with Phaeton's Petition to Apollo (1763, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool). Wilson may have treated the theme even earlier, during his Italian years, since his Irish pupil, John Plimmer painted a version, reproduced in an etching of 1760, with almost identical figures. However, stylistic criteria suggest that this painting is datable from the early 1770s. One feature that is unique to this version is the distant waterfall, similar in shape to the roughly contemporary P178 Falls of Niagara, (Wolverhampton Art Gallery). The fact that that P164 includes quotations from several previous compositions may suggest that Wilson's powers of invention were beginning to decline as his active career neared its end. The figures leave something to be desired, for example the scale of Apollo's hands.
Previous Cat/Ref Nos
Hazlitt 1843-44, vol. 1, pp. 184-85 (a version); Recent Acquisitions VII, London, p. 3 repr.; Fitzwiliam Museum Cambridge Annual Report for the Year ending 31 December 1952, 1953; pl. 2; Waterhouse 1953, p. 176; WGC, pp. 93-94, 96, 167, pl. 26b; J. Hayes, Richard Wilson (The Masters 57), 1966, pl. 13, repr. in colour; exh.cat. Landscapes from the Fitzwilliam, London, 1974, no. 64, pl. 12; J.W. Goodison, Catalogue of Paintings in the Fitzwilliam Museum, III, British School, pp. 287-88, pl. 13; Simon 1979 p. 438, fig. 69; Solkin 1982, pp. 236-7, no. 131; exh. cat., British Landsape Paintings from the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Tokyo 1992, pp. 30-31; Wilson and Europe 2014 (fig.114)
Link to WG Constable Archive Record
Carved and gilded wooden frame. Kate Lowry has noted:
Oil on canvas, simple weave with a pale grey ground visible where left exposed amongst the foliage near the top left corner. Support appears to have been relined, as it is quite flat, although the reverse could not be inspected. The warm evening light gives the whole painting, foliage, figures and sky, a rosy hue. The foliage of the trees has been mostly painted on a reserve but the foliage at the upper left and middle right overlaps onto the paint of the sky. The figures are fairly typical of Wilson, as is the way the sky is painted down to the castle at centre left. The castle towers were originally taller and Wilson has reduced them in height, leaving pentimenti visible. The temple at right is rather sketchy. Horizontal lines of impasto, pushed through by the lining treatment, indicate that the distant landscape originally had a slightly higher horizon. The sky is mostly smoothly painted with some impasto in the highlighted clouds right of the centre. No signature or date were found, although something like a 'W' is visible between the dancer's legs.