Sunday, June 28, 2015

Finding these 18C English parks & gardens a little difficult to fit into the landscape work of Richard Wilson 1713-1782

 Attributed to Richard Wilson (1713-1782) View of Carlton House with a Royal Party in the Grounds 1732 

Richard Wilson was born in 1714, in North Wales. His father was a Rector, who reportedly gave his son a solid classical education. Richard Wilson would become a celebrated landscape painter.  His grand, brooding landscapes, striking studies in light & shade, inspired & influenced the works of Turner & Constable.

In 1730, his maternal uncle Sir George Wynne sent him to London to be apprenticed for 6 years painter Thomas Wright, & then his uncle helped him financially in setting up his own studio. Apparently Richard remained dependent on his Uncle's generosity & gained a reputation as a fashionable young man about town. In the 1740s, however, he knuckled down to the business of portrait art & gained several significant patrons. The most important of these was the socially & politically prominent Lyttleton Family, many members of which commissioned portraits from Wilson. In 1750, with the financial backing of his friend Commodore Thomas Smith, the son of Sir Thomas Lyttleton, Wilson embarked on the mandatory Grand Tour. In that period, an English gentleman with any cultural pretensions, headed for the European Continent, especially Italy. 

Wilson sailed to Venice & remained there for several months, studying the works of Titian & other Old Masters & working as a portrait painter. He befriended a leading Venetian landscape painter, Francesco Zuccarelli, & Englishman, William Lock. Wilson painted a very striking portrait of Zuccarelli & took seriously his advise to concentrate on landscapes. William Lock bought his paintings & invited him to travel with him. Towards the end of 1751, Wilson left Venice in his company & traveled through Italy en route to Rome. Wilson's Roman tour was to last until 1757. He chose to settle in the most fashionable location in town - the Piazza di Spagna, a magnet for artists, who would sell paintings to tourists of the Roman countryside & monuments. Here Wilson turned from portriature to landscape painting in the classical style. He was inspired by the works of Poussin & Claude Lorraine.

Upon his return to England, Wilson became actively involved in founding 1st the Society of Artists & then the Royal Academy of Art, where he held many exhibitions, gained a considerable reputation, & sold works to an increasing number of famous patrons at ever rising fees. With all the money & adulation, Wilson grew arrogant to the point of rudeness. He offended his royal & elite client base who turned to other artists like the Irish George Barret & Wilson's old friend, Zuccarelli. With little work coming his way, Wilson took to drink sliding into poverty & ill-health. He returned to the family home in Wales, where he died in 1782.

Richard Wilson (1713-1782) View of Chatsworth House, Derbyshire  c. 1740s

Richard Wilson (1713-1782) Croome Court, Worcestershire, 1758.