St David’s Day, the 1st of March, is often accompanied by a spell of mild weather, as if if to lull us into believing Spring had arrived. There are nearly always some very cold nights to follow just to check our enthusiasm. But, it is a time of year when we start to notice the landscapes around us as the days lengthen and the sunshine strengthens.
The Welsh painter, Richard Wilson (1714 – 1782), could be regarded as the first British landscape artist, and I have chosen his view of Cader Idris as my “Painting of the Month “ for March.
Llyn y Cau, a view of Cader Idris was painted around 1765, and is a view of the North Welsh mountain from Mynydd Moel, about a mile away and gives a stunning panorama of the peak and the glacial lake, which gives the painting its name. The view, however is representational and allows Wilson to effectively present an ordered landscape from quite a chaotic view. Wilson picked up this Arcadian style from a stay in Italy between 1750 and 1757.
Francesco Zuccarelli (1702-1788) was a very successful Italian landscape painter ,from Venice, and it was his influence that persuaded Richard Wilson to take up this genre, having trained as a portraitist. He brought these Italianate ideas back to his native Wales, and pioneered the work in Britain. Both Zuccarelli and Wilson became original members of the Royal Academy, and many might claim that both Constable and Turner were inspired by Wilson’s pioneering works.
I walked up Cader Idris with my children, many years ago, And can assure everyone it is a particularly difficult peak to conquer (for the average fell Walker!). It does reward you with a wonderful view, however, whether in real time or through Richard Wilson’s brushstrokes.