The Valley of the River Severn with a distant View of Shrewsbury

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The Valley of the River Severn with a distant View of Shrewsbury
The Valley of the River Severn with a distant View of Shrewsbury
The Valley of the River Severn with a distant View of Shrewsbury
Lowell Libson & Jonny Yarker Ltd.
title=Credit line
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
The Valley of the River Severn with a distant View of Shrewsbury
c.1744-45 (undated)
Oil on canvas
Metric: 51.5 x 94.5 cm
Imperial: 20 1/4 x 37 1/4 in.
Lowell Libson & Jonny Yarker Ltd, London
Wilson Online Reference
An extensive river scene with an angler in the foreground and an elegant man leaning on a cane by his side. Two boats are on the river at the left in front of an arched stone bridge. In the background are a town, a distant stretch of water and a range of hills.
Stated in Sotheby's 1940 sale catalogue, mistakenly according to W.G. Constable, as having been exhibited at Manchester City Art Gallery (in 1931 according to annotated catalogue at the Paul Mellon Centre).
John Charles Middleton (1757-1793); his grandson, the Revd Frederick Matthews Middleton (1831-1904); his son-in-law, Col. E.F. Hall, Red House, Chilworth, Romsey, Hants.; Christie's 19 July 1929 (49); bt by Spink, London; with Arthur Tooth & Sons Ltd., London 1931; with Knoedler & Co., 15 Old Bond Street, London W.1, 1932 (#1270); bt Harcourt Johnstone, M.P. (1895-1945) (£650.0.0); his sale, Sotheby's London, 12 June 1940 (142 repr.- Landscape with Fishermen in the Foreground), bt Tooth (£140.0.0); Sir Stephenson Kent (1897-1989), Chapelwood Manor, Nutley; Mrs C.K. Prestige; Sotheby's London 3 April 1968 (62); with the City Gallery London 1968, whence acquired by Major T.C. Harvey and by descent; Christie's London 16 April 1982 (59 - A River Landscape with Fishermen); Christie's London 7 July 2010 (165 - An Extensive River Landscape, with Fishermen in the Foreground); The Hon. W. Eugene Johnston III, Greensboro, North Carolina (d.2018); Leland Little Auctions, 620 Cornerstone Court, Hillsborough, NC 27278, USA, 11 June 2022 (236); bt Lowell Libson & Jonny Yarker Ltd, London
Unsigned; no inscription
Techniques and materials
Close to P12 Caernarvon Castle, Detroit Institute of Arts, in style. The pastel palette and creamy texture of the paint are comparable with other early landscapes by Wilson, such as P10 Westminster Bridge under Construction, Tate, London. The trees, rocks and landscape to the right are reminiscent of early Gainsborough. The birds are thickly but summarily painted onto the sky. The breezy sky itself drops down onto the horizon in the usual way for Wilson, and the trees seem to be painted over reserves, which would be consistent with his later practice.
Verso inscriptions
[1] Upper horizontal stretcher, black sale stamp: CP 275
[2] Central vertical stretcher, black sale stamp: CP 275
[3] Central vertical stretcher, white chalk: LOT 59 16-4-82
[4] Lower horizontal stretcher left, faint white chalk: 7865 [?]
[5] Lower horizontal stretcher centre, white chalk: LOT 165 7/7/2010
[1] Upper left: Modern Christie's label: 16 April 1982 (59)
[2] Upper centre: old, fragmented Tooth label, with nos 597, 599 or 59Y
[3] Beneath it: smaller perforated edge label with number A1270
[4] Attached separately in transparent pocket lower left: old Tooth label : 'Valley of the Severn'
The view has not been definitively identified. The River Severn with Shrewsbury in the distance is possible - perhaps from Atcham, Shropshire, which has a seven-arched stone bridge across the river. In favour of Atcham - if the distant town is Shrewsbury - is the fact that the river appears to be running towards the viewer from the angle of the two fishing boats moored midstream. This would suggest a location downstream from Shrewsbury. However, the stone bridge, by John Gwynn (1713-1786), a contemporary of the artist, was not completed until 1776, which is problematic in view of the early dating of this picture on stylistic grounds. It is possible that the composition was intended more as a capriccio than a topographical record.
Critical commentary
The bright palette and careful composition suggest that Wilson was already aware of Canaletto's work, even though the latter did not arrive in London until 1746. Libson and Yarker have noted his probable influence on the boat in the foreground, which has something of the look of a Venetian gondola.
WGC, p. 235, pl. 139c; Lowell Libson & Jonny Yarker Ltd, Recent Acquisitions 2023, 2023, pp. 6-9.
Link to WG Constable Archive Record
In narrow gilded gesso on wood classical frame, some gilding and gesso detached. Relined. (2010:) Good overall condition, apart from a few scratches in the sky and some faded blue retouching in the sky and river. Little visible craquelure. The paint is very thin in places, especially in the sky and water areas and the normal weave canvas is showing through. There is some juicy ochre impasto on the edges of the clouds. Lightly cleaned 2022, which revealed that the original canvas may have had cut corners for display as an overdoor or overmantel.
Updated by Compiler
2023-07-07 00:00:00