- Museum number
Vortigern's Gorge, Lleyn Peninsula; view along the coast of a calm sea, with a peaked mountain rising r, and a few boats in the bay
- Production date
- 1758-1775 (circa)
Height: 146 millimetres
Width: 199 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Almost without fail, all commentaries on the drawings of Richard Wilson begin by saying that the majority of his extant drawings date from his extended stay in Italy, between late 1750 and circa 1757. This drawing is therefore a relatively rare example of a British landscape drawing, (see also 1881,0212.9 and 1881,0212.6). As the inscription explains, it was removed from one of Wilson’s sketchbooks in 1822 by Sir George Beaumont, a patron of the arts and one of the founding members of the British Institution and National Gallery. ‘G. Arnald’ refers to George Arnald, a landscape and topographical painter and it has been suggested that ‘Smith’ may be the topographical watercolourist John ‘Warwick’ Smith.
Though Laurence Binyon originally identified this view as depicting Barmouth, Paul Spencer-Longhurst has pointed out that the inscription ‘Vortigern’ in Wilson’s hand suggests that Binyon was incorrect. ‘Vortigern’s Gorge’, an alternative name for Nant Gwrtheyrn, is a valley on the North coast of the Lleyn Peninsula. It was named after the 5th Century warlord King Vortigern, who was chased into Wales by his enemies, and remained there in the hill fort of Dinas Emrys. The coast line in this drawing would therefore be that of Llyn Dinas and the mountain seen in the background would be Yr Aran. The online Wilson catalogue raisonné dates the sketch to circa 1754, but this is unlikely, as Wilson was in Italy at this point. As David Solkin has highlighted, Wilson began experimenting further with pencil as a sketching medium from nature within a year of his leaving Italy. The few drawings that survive from this period would indicate that Wilson had begun to use drawing as a quick means of recording scenes that might be used in paintings later on rather than as works of art in their own right as many of his Italian works had been. Given this, and in light of the style of execution and the brief pencil note of the place, we can tentatively date this drawing to this post-Italian period (Solkin, pp. 408-409).
‘Richard Wilson Online’ reference number: D263
D. Solkin, ‘New Light on the Drawings of Richard Wilson’, in Master Drawings, vol. 16, no. 4, winter 1978, pp. 404-414 & 467-478.
The curator’s comments on the drawings of Richard Wilson were written by Olivia Ghosh, Anne Christopherson Fellow in the Department of Prints and Drawings, August 2017.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number