1. Richard Wilson

Penegoes 1713/14 – 1782 Colomendy

View of the Cascatelli Grandi and the Villa of Maecenas in Tivoli, c. 1752

A pioneer of British landscape painting, the Welshman Richard Wilson began his career as a portraitist, and it was only during the years he spent in Italy from 1750-57 that he changed course. In Rome, he befriended the renowned French landscapist Claude Joseph Vernet (1714–1789), who probably introduced him to sketching in oils en plein air. Though it was not Wilson’s usual practice to paint out-of-doors, he would in turn pass on the technique to his protégé Thomas Jones (cat. 85-86). The freely and rapidly executed manner of this small painting suggests that Wilson could have created it at least partly before the motif. Either way, the inclusion of a painter at work at lower left demonstrates his endorsement of the technique, decades before it became widespread throughout Europe. Depicted with folding stool and portable easel, Wilson’s painter would have had to work quickly to capture the fleeting light effects of the setting sun on the landscape. Tivoli and its surroundings were the first topographical subjects painted by Wilson in Italy in 1752, and he made several versions of this composition (Dulwich Picture Gallery, National Gallery of Ireland, Tate London and private collection in Seattle).