studio of Richard Wilson


Not on display

Studio of Richard Wilson 1713–1782
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 737 × 965 mm
Bequeathed by J.M.W. Turner 1856

Display caption

This picture formed part of the Turner Bequest so certainly belonged to him. It is a replica of Wilson's picture in the Dulwich College Gallery which passed from the Desenfans collection to that of Sir Francis Bourgeois in 1807. Turner made a study of Wilson's art and technique when learning to paint himself, so a question of attribution hangs over it - especially as contemporary visitors to his house observed that he hung works that looked like examples of Wilson and other painters, but were in fact by himself. The source of Turner's 'Wilsons' is not known, but he was on good terms with his pupil, Joseph Farington.

Gallery label, August 2001

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Catalogue entry

[from] Nos. 545–60: Works Formerly Attributed to Turner

Nos. 545–7a: Richard Wilson (1713 or 1714–1782) or his Studio

545. [N05538] Tivoli: The Cascatelle


Canvas, 29 × 38 (73·5 × 96·5)

Coll. Turner Bequest 1856 (296, with marginal note ‘(copy from Wilson)’; identified 1946 by chalk number on back); transferred to the Tate Gallery 1947.

Lit. Davies 1946, pp. 167, 191; Gage 1965, p. 23 n. 54; Gage 1969, p. 36; Chubb 1981, p. 417 n.1.

A close replica of the painting by Wilson in the Dulwich College Gallery which passed from the Desenfans to the Bourgeois collection in 1807 (28 1/4 × 38; repr. W.G. Constable, Richard Wilson 1953, pl. 117a). To judge by the style and tonality, the replica is almost certainly by Wilson or from his studio rather than by Turner, though Chubb gives reasons, not convincing to the compiler, for suggesting that the picture was perhaps painted c. 1807 or later as a companion to No. 44, q.v [N05512].

546. [N01890] Valley with a Bridge over a River


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).

547. [N01891] Niagara Falls


Canvas, 39 1/2 × 53 3/4 (100 × 136·5)

Coll. ?Garnons Bequest 1854 or Turner Bequest 1856 (see No. 546 [N01890]); transferred to the Tate gallery 1953.

Lit. Davies 1946, pp. 153, 177; W.G. Constable, Richard Wilson 1953, pp. 95, 130, 230–31, rep. pl. 126c.

For the possible mix-up between pictures from the Garnons Bequest and those from the Turner Bequest see No. 546 [N01890]. In this case Davies was again responsible for the reattribution to Turner and his Bequest, entitling the picture ‘Common with Sandpit (?)’, but Constable and other experts have much more decisively returned it to Wilson or his studio. It is a version of the larger picture now in the Wolverhampton Art Gallery, engraved by William Byrne in 1774 as by Richard Wilson from a drawing made on the spot by Lieutenant William Pierie of the Royal Artillery in 1768.

Published in:
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984

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