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This is a study for the central area of Ward's gigantic 'Gordale Scar' of 1812-14 (Tate Gallery). Ward was commissioned to paint this by Lord Ribblesdale, who owned the Scar, and made numerous studies of it on a visit in 1811. Gordale Scar, near Settle in Yorkshire, was already famous as one of the most sublime natural sites in Britain but Ward increased its grandeur almost beyond recognition in his fourteen-foot canvas, combining different views of the place, exaggerating its scale and casting a menacing sky overall. This small sketch, however, preserves the light and warm colours that Ward would have observed in the summer of 1811.

August 2004