Sir David Wilkie

Five Preliminary Studies for Figures in ‘The Village Holiday’. Verso: Two Preliminary Studies for Parts of Figures in ‘The Village Holiday’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Sir David Wilkie 1785–1841
Chalk on paper. Verso: ink on paper
Support: 184 × 278 mm
Purchased 1984

Catalogue entry


Black chalk on laid paper, originally a letter sent to the artist, 7 1/4 × 11 (184 × 278)
Inscribed, recto, in ink in the hand of John Inigo Richards RA, ‘Mr D. Wilkie’, and in another hand ‘no 1’ b.r., and verso, in the same hand, ‘no 2’ t.r.
Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) 1984
Prov: ...; said to have been purchased at Phillips in Edinburgh or Glasgow c. 1980; acquired shortly afterwards from the purchaser at that sale by Mr R. Easson from whom bt by the Tate Gallery

The studies on T03821 were drawn by Wilkie on a letter which was written by J.I. Richards RA, Secretary to the Royal Academy, to Wilkie on 29 November 1809 requesting him to meet the President and Council on 1 December, so he could receive his Diploma which admitted him as an Associate of the Royal Academy. Wilkie records the receipt of this letter in his journal for 30 November 1809: ‘Had a note from Mr Richards, requesting my attendance at the Royal Academy to receive my diploma and sign my obligations’ (A. Cunningham, The Life of Sir David Wilkie, 1843, I, pp. 265–6). The letter itself survives on the verso of T03821 and is a printed form, taken from an engraved plate, the blank spaces of which have been filled in as necessary by Richards in his own hand.

Wilkie's picture of ‘The Village Holiday’ which is now in the Tate Gallery (N00122) was commenced in September 1809, though the idea of such a subject had first occurred to him in August 1808. The finished picture was first shown in public at an exhibition of his own work which Wilkie organized in Pall Mall in 1812. In accordance with his usual practice, Wilkie both worked and reworked his ideas on the canvas and also in small sketches on paper as he thought through aspects of the composition in more detail. T03821 is one of a number of such sketches which survive from the time Wilkie was working on ‘The Village Holiday’ and according to his journal, which is published by Cunningham, the period of his most intense activity on the picture ended in June 1810. Other related drawings include one in the Tate Gallery (N01187), three small studies in pencil in the National Gallery of Scotland (D4296), four small studies, again in pencil, in the Witt Collection (2295A and B), and a pen and sepia sketch in the Dyce Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum (940). A small study in ink was sold at Christie's, 12 May 1970 (118). A series of eight larger, more finished watercolour sketches was, in 1972, in the collection of the late Earl and Countess of Swinton.

The studies on the recto of T03821 relate to the following figures in the finished picture: (i) the seated man drinking out of a glass by the inn door at the left-hand side (b.l.); (ii) the group of people leaning over the balcony over the porch at the left (centre left); (iii) the men pulling the drunkard in the principal group (r.); (iv) the figures leaning out of the window behind the pot girl at the centre of the composition (centre right) and the man seated at the table and holding a bottle in his left hand, b.l. (t.r.). The two slight studies on the verso are not readily identifiable with any parts of the finished painting.

T03821 would seem to date from about the same period as the small studies in the National Gallery of Scotland. The study of the people leaning over the balcony shows the building behind them with a dormer window in the roof. This feature appears in one of the drawings in Scotland but not in the finished canvas.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986


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