Catalogue entry

T04943 On the West Lynn, North Devon 1858

Watercolour and gouache with some scraping-out on wove paper 278 × 393 (10 7/8 × 15 1/2) mounted on cartridge paper
Inscribed ‘G.P. Boyce '58’ b.r., ‘On the West Lynn - N. Devon - 10.30 a.m. | Geo. P. Boyce - July 1858.’ on the back of the secondary support, ‘On the West Lynn. N. Devon | GPBoyce. 1858’ (initials in monogram) on back of lining paper formerly stuck to the cartridge paper
Presented by John W. Watson 1987
Prov: The artist's executors, sold Christie's 1 July 1897 (30) £5. 5s. bt Mrs Charrington, later Mrs Hadley, a niece of the artist; by descent to John W. Watson
Exh: George Price Boyce, Tate Gallery, June–Aug. 1987 (23, repr.)

Between about July and November 1858 Boyce toured the West Country, the southern part of which he had first visited in 1853. Two watercolours of views made during the 1858 trip were exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1859: ‘At Lynmouth, North Devon’ (645) and ‘The East Lyn at Middleham, North Devon’ (682).

Lynmouth, a small resort on the edge of Exmoor on the north coast of Devonshire where the East and West Lynn rivers meet, had attracted travellers and artists in search of the picturesque from the early 1800s. The Tate collections include William Daniell's aquatint ‘Lynmouth, on the Coast of North Devon’ of 1814 from A Voyage Round Great Britain (T02730) and two watercolour views of Lynmouth river scenery by William Müller of 1844 (N02380, N02381). John Murray's A Handbook for Travellers in Devon and Cornwall of 1856 noted that the scenery around Lynmouth was ‘far finer than any other of the southern counties can boast; characterized by sub-alpine valleys, impetuous streams, wild gloomy ridges, and precipices and crags which would elicit admiration even in mountainous Wales’. The same guide described the two rivers which flowed into the sea at Lynmouth as ‘the E. Lynn flowing with hoarse murmers down a magnificent ravine, the W. Lynn winding down a less imposing and richly wooded valley’. When suddenly swollen by heavy rain coming down from Exmoor, these steeply descending streams were transformed: ‘the woods shake as if agitated by a furious wind; spray and the ruins of trees are flung aloft in the air; while the din is occasionally varied by dull sounds like thunder, as rocks pass down the channel’ (pp.116–17).

The precise point from which Boyce took his view in T04943 has not been identified. Mrs M.M. Rowe, Devonshire County Archivist, has pointed out that the torrential rains which flooded down the West Lynn in 1952 in all likelihood changed the configuration of rocks which occupy the foreground of Boyce's picture. However, the stretch of river would seem to be in the vicinity of Lynbridge, about half a mile upstream from Lynmouth, looking down towards Glen Lyn Gorge with the lower slopes of Summerhouse Hill to the right. In the distance can be seen the Bristol Channel with Swansea Bay and the Welsh coast beyond.

On the back of the secondary support is part of an architectural drawing in pencil. Meticulously drawn, it shows a floor plan, perhaps of a church. The presence of pinholes along the outlines suggests that the plan was transferred either from or, at a later stage, to another sheet of paper. Boyce was articled as an architect in 1843 and between 1847 and 1849 worked for the architects Wyatt and Brandon (C. Newall and J. Egerton, George Price Boyce, exh. cat., Tate Gallery 1987, p.10).

Published in:
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986-88, London 1996