Francis Danby

The Wood Nymph’s Hymn to the Rising Sun


Not on display

Francis Danby 1793–1861
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1073 × 1524 mm
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1969

Display caption

Danby, Irish by origin, worked in Bristol and London and later on the Continent. Of all British landscape painters he seems closest to continental artists in his technical approach, though his subject-matter is varied and unpredictable. This highly poetic work is a romantic restatement of the Claudean idyll, making use of richer tonal contrasts and evoking a mysterious fantasy landscape. But the balanced asymmetry in the formal opposition of cliffs and trees acknowledges the artist's roots in the classical tradition.

Gallery label, August 2004

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

Catalogue entry

Francis Danby 1793–1861
Inscribed ‘Frs Danby 1845’ b.l.
Canvas, 42¼×60 (107.3×152.3).
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1969.
Coll: Bought from the artist by John, Second Lord Northwick, 1845; sold Phillips at Thirlestane House, 12 August 1859 (1163), bought in by George, Third Lord Northwick; his widow 1887; her grandson, Capt E G Spencer-Churchill 1912, sold Christie's, 25 June 1965 (116), bought Frank and Agnew's; bought Friends of the Tate Gallery 1969.
Exh: R.A., 1845 (272); The First Hundred Years, R.A., 1951–2 (345); Bristol 1961 (29); Victorian Painting 1837–1890, Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield, 1968 (2).
Lit: Art Union, 1845, p. 185; Hours in the Picture Gallery at Thirlestane House, 1846, p. 66 no. 371; T Borenius and L Cust, Catalogue of the Collection of Pictures at Northwick Park, 1921, p. 108 no. 252; E W Adams, Francis Danby (Ph.D. thesis, London University), 1969, pp. 253–320 no. 21.

During the two decades following his return from the continent in 1840 Danby painted a number of large mythological landscapes. Many of these were inspired by Claude, whose works he had copied in the Louvre. In T1132 a Claudian breadth and tonality pervade the composition although certain elements, such as the pinnacle rock and foreground tree, are reminiscent of Danby's early idyllic paintings. The subject would appear to have been devised by Danby, although indirectly influenced by Claude's work.

According to the review in the Art Union, ‘... Colour was never brought forward with such dazzling effect as in those touches which exhibit the light of the sun breaking upon the cliffs and distant objects of the composition’; the painting has now darkened to some extent.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1968-70, London 1970

You might like