More on Richard Wilson, Italianate landscape influence and Mountainous Wales

Cader Idris is a very popular mountain, and an enjoyable Painting of the Month, judging by your feedback on Richard Wilson’s eighteenth century painting. It inspired me to do more reading and research on Wilson. As well as meeting Francesco Zuccarelli while in Venice, and being persuaded away from portraiture, it is clear that Claude Lorraine was a key influence.

Claude Lorrain (1600-1682) a Frenchman, who spent his lifetime painting in Italy, pioneered the Baroque idea of landscape modified to resemble the mythological historical scenes of Arcadia. The methodology that is so recognisable from  this genre, is the construction of the scene in three overlapping planes.

Claud Lorrain, The Roman Campagna, 1639, oil on canvas, 102cm x 136cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Claud Lorrain, The Roman Campagna, 1639, oil on canvas, 102cm x 136cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The foreground would be dark acting as a frame for the detail of the subject matter in the middle ground. This lighter clearer view would give way to a mistier background. One of Wilson’s trademarks would be a smaller group of people in the foreground which personalises the view – like the shepherds in Arcadia. This style is clearly stated in his two views of Rome from about 1753.

Snowdon from Llyn Nantile is the painting which brings these themes back to Wales. The view Wilson chose is from Llyn Nantile across the lake. The representational idea can be scene from the background view of the peak, which is far more jagged and precipitous than the reality. The artists brush takes us through the frame and the fishermen, to the knoll of Clogwyn y Gareth in the middle ground to the mountain, with a clarity that draws the viewer across the lake and into the mountains.

Richard Wilson, Snowdon from Llyn Nantile, 1766, oil on canvas, 101cm x 127cm, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.
Richard Wilson, Snowdon from Llyn Nantile, 1766, oil on canvas, 101cm x 127cm, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.

Tonal consistency. A point especially for the artists out there. Wilson seems to be master of tonal control, always picking the exact value of the chosen hue. This gives his paintings there sumptuous representation of the light. Maybe, again, he learnt this in Italy and brought the skill into his British works.

Snowdon, Llyn Nantile, Richard Wilson
View of Snowdon, Llyn Nantile and Clogwyn y Gareg

You may enjoy seeing more of Richard Wilson’s work in the current BBC Four documentary on Welsh Art. Do enjoy.

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