- Studio of Richard Wilson 1713–1782
- Oil paint on canvas
- Support: 1010 x 1365 mm
- Bequeathed by Richard and Catherine Garnons 1854 or J.M.W. Turner 1856
[from] Nos. 545–60: Works Formerly Attributed to Turner
Nos. 545–7a: Richard Wilson (1713 or 1714–1782) or his Studio
546. [N01890] Valley with a Bridge over a River
THE TATE GALLERY, LONDON (1890)
Canvas, 39 3/4 × 53 1/2 (101 × 136·5)
Coll. ?Garnons Bequest 1854 or Turner Bequest 1856 (see below); transferred to the Tate Gallery 1947.
Lit. Davies 1946, pp. 153, 177; W. G. Constable, Richard Wilson 1953, p. 130.
A plaque formerly attached to the face of the picture bore the number ‘1890’, a National Gallery inventory number allocated in about 1900–01 and identifying the picture as being from the Garnons Bequest. This bequest consisted of a group of sixteen pictures from Colommendy House near Mold in Wales, and were traditionally held to have been taken there in an unfinished state by Richard Wilson when he retired from London in about 1780. Unfortunately only one of the pictures was given an inventory number when the pictures entered the National Gallery in 1854, no. 267 [N01999], now in the Tate Gallery and accepted as by Wilson. The others were numbered in two batches, c. 1900–01 (1859, 1880, 1889–91) and c. 1914 (2977–89). One further work was not numbered until 1944 (5560). A number of these works are no longer attributed to Wilson and they may not all in fact be Garnons pictures. (For the Garnons Bequest see Davies 1946, p. 177.)
This picture was catalogued as School of Richard Wilson until 1946, when Martin Davies reattributed it as an early Turner, and for this reason suggested that it was in fact a hitherto unidentified Turner Bequest picture. In the comparable case of No. 547 [N01891], a version of Wilson's Niagara Falls the same size as this picture, Davies' similar reattribution has since been reversed, and it is tempting to do the same in this case, despite W. G. Constable's verdict, ‘Very improbably by Wilson’. Certainly the size is unusual for Turner (the nearest are Nos. 89 [N00486] and 107 [N00485] of approx 40 × 51 1/4 in. and Nos 461–2 [N04662 and N04658], approx 40 × 56 in.) while being close to a common Wilson format. It is difficult to find parallels among equally unfinished works by Turner; it is nearest to the rather further advanced Valley with a Distant Bridge and Tower (No. 256 [N05505]), probably done in the 1820s, rather than to any early work. On the other hand, there are parallels among unfinished Wilson or Wilson school pictures of the kind found among the Garnons Bequest (e.g., Constable op. cit., pls. 57b, 126c (Niagara Falls, see No. 547 [N01891]) and, outside the Bequest, pls. 129a—a picture which actually belonged to Turner-and 129b).
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984