- Museum number
Solitude, study for a picture; a pool, on the bank of which stands an old man in a long robe beside a seated figure under a tree, on the high further bank is a grove, at right a weeping willow overhangs the water
Black chalk and stump, touched with white, on brown-grey paper
- Production date
- 1758-1762 (circa)
Height: 257 millimetres
Width: 347 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- This drawing is an early sketch for the painting ‘Solitude’. Originally known as ‘Landskip with hermits’ when exhibited at the Society of Artists in 1762, it was given this more poetic title in the 1778 print, etched by William Woollett and William Ellis and published by Woollett, (see 1842,0806.320). Woollett and Ellis also accompanied their print with the following lines taken from James Thomson's The Seasons: Summer (1730 edition, lines 439-447):
'Still let me pierce into the midnight Depth
Of yonder Grove, of wildest, largest Growth:
That, forming high in Air a woodland Quire,
Nods o'er the Mount beneath. At every Step,
Solemn, and slow, the Shadows blacker fall,
And all is awful listening Gloom around.
These are the Haunts of Meditation,
These the Scenes Where antient Bards th'inspiring Breath,
Extatic, felt: and from this World retir'd'.
As Martin Postle points out, it is unclear whether Wilson produced this drawing and the related painting with these lines in mind or not. Thompson was a very popular source of inspiration for painters (Turner was later to accompany many of his exhibited works with extracts from ‘The Seasons’). However, by the time the print was produced Wilson no longer played any role in the process, so we cannot say with any certainty that he desired the connection to be made (Postle, in Postle & Simon, p. 138). Independently of Thompson’s poetry, the motif of the hermit and his corollary the hermitage appeared in works throughout the 18th Century as symbolic of both a life of Christian contemplation and the more fashionable idea of Romantic melancholy. It was at this date that the ‘ornamental hermit’ became a sought after feature in aristocratic gardens.
The quite densely wooded composition is relatively unusual in Wilson’s work, which more often depicted broader, deeper horizons in the manner of Claude Lorrain, Gaspard Dughet or the recently deceased Jan Frans van Bloemen (see 1881,0212.8 for more on Wilson’s influences). However, we do see it repeated in works such as ‘The Wilderness in St James’s Park’ (circa 1770-75, drawing: 1881,0212.9, painting: Paul Mellon Collection, B1976.7.176).
Possibly due to its fashionable subject matter, many versions of the painting related to this drawing exist: one in the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea (GV 1971-2); one in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin (NGI.528); one in a private Irish collection and one in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, in which the heavily wooded composition is abandoned for a more typical receding horizon (1983.1.45). See 1881,0212.26 for further commentary on the relationship between Wilson’s drawings and paintings.
‘Richard Wilson Online’ reference number: D359
M. Postle & R. Simon, Richard Wilson and the Transformation of European Landscape Painting, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 2014.
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
- Exhibition history
1982/3 Nov-Jun, Tate, 'Richard Wilson', no. 100
1983 Jan-Mar, Museum of Wales, 'Richard Wilson', no. 100
1983 Apr-Jun, Yale Center, 'Richard Wilson', no. 100
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- According to Reid's report to the Trustees dated 10 February 1881 the series of 77 drawings by Richard Wilson that was presented by J D Francis in 1881 had belonged to Joseph Farington who had been a pupil of Wilson.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number