- Museum number
On the outskirts of Rome; a road leading away between olives right and wooded slopes l, beyond which a ppear S Trinità de' Monti and the so-called Tower of Nero
Black chalk and stump on blue-green paper
- Production date
- 1752-1756 (circa)
Height: 123 millimetres
Width: 188 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The present drawing is representative of the technique adopted by Wilson after his arrival in Rome: black chalk and stump on blue-grey (or mid-tinted) paper heightened with white, a practice that was common amongst the pensionnaires of the Académie de France in Rome. (See the curator’s comment for 1881,0212.36 for his earlier technique.) This French connection is unsurprising, as Wilson looked to the highly successful French landscape painter Claude-Joseph Vernet for cues in his early Roman period, and was thus linked to the tenets of the French School. Indeed, Lars Kokkonen argues that Wilson’s move from Venice to Rome did not initiate a move from Venetian Rococo to Roman Neoclassicism, but from Venetian tradition to French practice (Kokkonen, in Postle & Simon, p. 68).
At this date the Académie de France was under the directorship of Charles-Joseph Natoir, who was desirous that, ‘students without the talent to succeed in history painting would devote themselves to landscape, which is both agreeable and important, as we are lacking landscape painters.’ (Quoted Kokkonen, in Postle and Simon, p. 64.) As well as encouraging students to study landscape painting in general, the Académie also championed the practice of both plein air sketching and painting, both of which Wilson engaged in. Brinsley Ford speculates that the black chalk and stump drawing technique was probably also taught at the Académie, as it was the preferred method of two of Wilson’s contemporaries Charles Michel-Ange Challe and Louis Gabriel Blanchet, who may also have influenced the Welshman (see 1999,0626.2 for an example of Challe’s drawing from 1747.)
As well as Vernet’s influence, we might postulate that Wilson’s reported involvement with the St Martin’s Lane Academy (see 1881,0212.36), would have conditioned him to understand and gravitate towards the French style of draughtsmanship. There Wilson would have encountered the work of the Parisian Hubert-François Gravelot, who had an important teaching role in the Academy. Indeed, Wilson’s early landscape ‘Westminster Bridge Under Construction’ shows the clear influence of Gravelot in its handling of the figures (Tate Collection, T03665). Like Challe, Gravelot favoured the use of black chalk and stump heightened with white on tinted paper. This similarity can be linked back to their mutual teacher François Boucher, who also favoured this drawing medium (see also the curator’s comment for 2017,7036.1).
Once Wilson had adopted this technique he did not change his style of draughtsmanship again; we see it carried through into the few drawings that remain from his post-Italian period (for example 1881,0212.6 and 1881,0212.9). It is also clear that this was the method Wilson taught his various students. In 1773 Ozias Humphrey reported that, ‘Mr Wilson says the best & most expeditious mode of drawing landskips from nature is with black chalk and stump on brownish paper touched up in white’ (quoted Kokkonen, Postel & Simon, p. 64). The Welsh artist Thomas Jones also recounted in his Reminiscences, ‘the first year I was to be confined to making Drawings with black and white chalks on a paper of middle tint, either from [Wilson’s] Studies and Pictures or from Nature’ (quoted Constable, p. 106).
'Richard Wilson Online' reference number: D99
W. G. Constable, Richard Wilson, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1953.
B. Ford, The Drawings of Richard Wilson, Faber & Faber, London, 1951.
B. Ford, ‘Richard Wilson in Rome. I – The Wicklow Wilsons’, in The Burlington Magazine, vol. 93, no. 578, May 1951, pp. 157-167.
B. Ford, ‘Richard Wilson in Rome. II – The Claudean Landscapes’, in The Burlington Magazine, vol. 94, no. 596, November 1952, pp. 307-313 & 315.
M. Postle & R. Simon, Richard Wilson and the Transformation of European Landscape Painting, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 2014.
D. Solkin, ‘New Light on the Drawings of Richard Wilson’, in Master Drawings, vol. 16, no. 4, winter 1978, pp. 404-414 & 467-478.
D. Solkin, Richard Wilson, the Landscape of Reaction, Tate Gallery Publications, London, 1982.
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