River Scene with Bathers, Cattle and Ruin

River Scene with Bathers, Cattle and Ruin
River Scene with Bathers, Cattle and Ruin
River Scene with Bathers, Cattle and Ruin
Tate, London 2014
title=Credit line
Studio of Wilson
River Scene with Bathers, Cattle and Ruin
c.1770-75 (undated)
Oil on canvas [not panel as stated by W.G. Constable]
Metric: 64.5 x 77.5 cm
Imperial: 25 3/8 x 30 1/2 in.
Accession Number
Wilson Online Reference
Before a calm wide river dominated by a domed ancient ruin three bathers are embarking on or returning from a swim. Beyond in the left distance are a hill-town and mountains. The golden rosy back-lighting effects in the sky behind the hills and trees to the right are tinged overall with pink overtones. On the right banks of the river cattle and sheep are seen.
Edmund Higginson (1802-1871), Saltmarshe Castle, Bromyard, Herefordshire; his sale, Christie's 5 June 1846 (128 - An Italian Landscape), bt by London dealer Henry Farrer (1798-1866) for £210; noted in Beckett List (see Bibliography below) as bt from H. Farrer for cash in January 1848; bequeathed to the National Gallery by John Staniforth Beckett, 1889; transferred to the Tate 1955; on loan to Downing Street until late 1986
Techniques and materials
The foliage at the right is painted very approximately. The architecture of the temple is ham-fisted and the sky above it is glutinous. The highlighting of the boulder etc. to the right is uncharacteristic.
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Related Works by Other Artists
J.M.W. Turner, watercolour (T.B. XXXIII-I, Tate, London)
Critical commentary
One of numerous idealised landscapes by Wilson, based on the scenery he had observed in Italy in the 1750s. The domed ruin in the centre is derived from a building just outside Rome, known in the 18th century as the Temple of Minerva Medica. The nude bathers in the foreground, with their overtones of classical sculpture, likewise suggest Antiquity. This painting differs from the Huntington version (P116) mainly in the absence of shrubs in the foreground left, in the grouping of the animals, in showing more of the interior of the ruin and in omitting the square building on the hill, mid-distance right, and the boats on the river. It also differs from all other versions in that the foreground bather, perhaps intended as a woman, is looking towards the right rather than the left.
No. 281 in typed list of the Beckett collection (National Gallery Library); WGC, p. 213, pl. 99b (version 1)
Link to WG Constable Archive Record
Surface cleaned and varnished at the National Gallery, 1889. Conserved by Holder and discoloured varnish was removed, August 1948. Treated in 1982 (completed June). Simple weave linen with grey ground.
Kate Lowry has noted: Original canvas turnovers lost at time of lining. Possibly ultramarine present in the sky; rather mechanical orange blobs of paint in foliage. Strips of cloud in the sky are quite delicate and unlike Wilson's usual style, although sky is painted thickly down to horizon and around the tree branches at right. Foreground figures not convincing for Wilson either. Foliage and foreground highlights not convincing. Rather slick bright tones throughout especially in sky and figures. Poor quality willow tree on opposite bank.
Updated by Compiler
2022-02-03 00:00:00