The Ruined Arch in Kew Gardens

The Ruined Arch in Kew Gardens
The Ruined Arch in Kew Gardens
The Ruined Arch in Kew Gardens
Private Collection, England / Photograph by John Hammond
title=Credit line
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
The Ruined Arch in Kew Gardens
c.1760-62 (undated)
Oil on canvas
Metric: 47 x 72.7 cm
Imperial: 18 1/2 x 28 5/8 in.
Private Collection, England
Accession Number
Wilson Online Reference
A road, curving between banks covered with trees and bushes, leads through a ruined archway in the Roman style. Beyond to the left are cypresses and a cedar. An artist can be seen drawing lower left and through the arch a female nude statue is visible.
SA 1762 (130 - A View of a ruin, in her royal highness the princess dowager of Wales' garden at Kew); Brighton 1920 (22 - Villa Borghese); London 1925 (33 - Villa Borghese); Manchester 1925 (30 - Villa Borghese); London 1934 (178 - Villa Borghese, Rome); Amsterdam 1936 (176); Exeter 1946 (64 - Villa Borghese, Rome); Birmingham 1948-49 (24); London 1949 (23); Paris 1953 (94); Montreal 1957 (76); on loan to Kenwood, 1959-60; London 1968 (6); London 1973-74 (35); Munich 1979-80 (56); London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982-83 (97); London 1996-97 (232); Conwy 2009 (15); Weston 2011 (17); Tercentenary 2014 (76)
Stated by Benjamin Booth to have been offered by the painter through Sir William Chambers to George III but refused; Benjamin Booth; Revd R.S. Booth; Lady (Marianne) Ford; Richard Ford; Sir Francis Clare Ford; Captain Richard Ford; Sir Brinsley Ford; thence by descent
Unsigned; no inscription
Techniques and materials
The sky at the left and the cedar tree are unusually cursory in technique
Kew Gardens lie on the opposite side of the Thames from Syon House. Kew Park was enlarged and embellished by Augusta, Dowager Princess of Wales from 1759, when the arch was built 'to make a passage for carriages and cattle, over one of the principal walks of the garden' [and] 'to imitate antiquity'. (W. Chambers, 'A Description of the Palace and Gardens at Kew, the seat of the Princess Dowager of Wales', Royal Magazine, September 1763, p. 154).
Related Drawings
D357/1 The Ruined Arch in Kew Gardens (recto), Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
D357/2 Sketch of an Urn (verso), Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
D357A A Ruin, Arch at Kew Gardens, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea
Related Prints
E72/17 Thomas Hastings after Wilson,Villa Borghese, The British Museum (1854,0708.74) and other impressions
See 'Links' tab
Related Paintings
P109 The Pagoda and Palladian Bridge in Kew Gardens, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (pendant)
Critical commentary
The classical reference of the ruined arch is reinforced by the Mediterranean trees and the brilliant lighting. The supposed ancient significance of the building is emphasised by the figure of the artist drawing at the left. This painting and P109 (see 'Related Paintings'), similar in size and both depicting Kew subjects, are likely to have been the two works said to have been offered to George III by Wilson but refused. Wilson's connections with Kew also involved decorating the ceiling of the Mosque, now lost, with a 'brilliant sunny sky' (J. Harris). From 1822 until 1948 P108 was thought to represent a site in the grounds of the Villa Borghese, Rome on account of the erroneous title given by Thomas Hastings to his engraving of that date (E72/17). Indeed, Wilson has made the setting more Italianate than in reality by introducing a cedar and changing the poplars into cypresses. Like the Palladian bridge in P109 the ruined arch was designed by William Chambers to reflect the current fashion for antiquities.
Sir William Chambers, Plans, elevations, sections, and perspective views of the gardens and buildings at Kew in Surry, London 1763, p. 7; Sir W. Chambers, 'A Description of the Palace and Gardens at Kew', The Royal Magazine or Gentleman's Monthly Companion, September 1763, p. 154; Booth Notes Doc. 4, p. 3; Booth Notes Doc. 8, p. 2; Booth Notes Doc. 9 (36); Cunningham 1830; H.D. Roberts, 'The Ford Collection of Works by Richard Wilson,' Connoisseur, LVII, May 1920, p. 28, repr.; Commemorative Catalogue 1934 (110 - Villa Borghese, Rome, pl. XXXVIII); Cooper 1948 2, pp. 346-48, fig. 12; WGC, pp. 49, 72, 88, 178-79, pl. 41a; Parris 1973, pp. 30-31; Solkin 1982, pp. 209-10; J. Harris and M. Snodin, eds, Sir William Chambers, Architect to George III, exh. cat., 1997, pp. 55-67, fig. 93; Walpole Society 1998-I, p. 16, BB18, pl. 15; R. Strong, The Artist and the Garden, 2000, pp. 255-58, Lord 2009, p. 55; Williams 2011, p. 28 repr.; Wilson and Europe 2014, pp. 262-63
Link to WG Constable Archive Record
Updated by Compiler
2021-02-19 00:00:00