- Museum number
View near Cotehele, Cornwall; river landscape with reed bed and trees on the far bank, heron in the foreground. 1868
Watercolour over chalk sketch with scratching out and touches of bodycolour
- Production date
Height: 230 millimetres
Width: 304 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- This is an unusual example of a landscape watercolour by Yeames, who was primarily known for painting English historical genre subjects. He exhibited watercolours regularly at the Dudley Gallery annual exhibition of watercolours in the 1860s (held in the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly); usually they were subject pictures but in 1869 he showed 'A view near Cotehele, Cornwall' (no. 642, £10 0s, including frame, which was gold, with a gold slip, now destroyed), which, by the evidence of the pencil inscription on the backboard of the frame, is probably this watercolour. Cotehele is a Tudor house built by the Edgcumbes in the woods above the tidal River Tamar in southwest Cornwall (now National Trust). The watercolour came to the Museum with the title 'Haunt of the Heron' but we use the title under which it was originally exhibited by the artist.
The landscape of the Tamar has altered since the mid-nineteenth century, not least because of a devastating storm in 1891, which ravaged the southwest and destroyed most of Cotehele's established woodland. The view was painted from Cotehele Quay, looking down-river. The tranquillity of the scene may result from artistic licence on the part of the artist, as during the 1800s this section of the river was very industrial with mining, lime burning and market gardening, necessitating heavy river traffic.
It is likely that Yeames visited the house with other members of the St John's Wood Clique, an informal grouping of artists who lived and worked in this area of North West London. They included David Wilkie Wynfield, Henry Stacy Marks, Philip Hermogenes Calderon and John Evan Hodgson. It was their practice to spend summer holidays at 16th-17th century country houses, finding inspiration for their next subject pictures. Other locations included Hever Castle in Kent and Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire. During this time friends and family were also invited to visit, although Juliet Hacking suggests that these summer trips did not function as ‘bohemian enclaves’, due the presence of the wives and children of the artists. Apparently, Yeames was actually forbidden by his wife to paint from the nude. When not working social activities (certainly at Hever) included sedate picnics, fishing, croquet and lawn tennis. Yeames also executed a number of views of the Cotehele house during his stay including the 'The Hall' and the 'Punch Room', the latter presumably the basis for the finished picture 'Jacobite’s Escape: the Punch Room at Cotehele House Cornwall' (1868-74) now with the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, Civic Collection (RBWM: 78).
See J. Hacking, 'Princes of Victorian Bohemia', London 2000, pp.22-24; and F. Milner and E. Morris, 'And when did you last see your father?', ex. cat., Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool 1992, pp.9-14; see also the article on this drawing by Donato Esposito in the British Museum Friends Magazine, Winter, 2012.
K. Sloan 'The 'tormentingly elusive' art of drawing landscape', in K. Sloan (ed.), Places of the Mind: British watercolour landscapes 1850-1950, (London, 2017), pp. 24-67.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1869, London, Dudley Gallery, Egyptian Hall Piccadilly, Annual Exhibition of Watercolours, no. 642
2017 23 Feb-27 Aug, London, BM, G90, Places of the Mind: British Landscape watercolours 1850-1950
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- This item has an uncertain or incomplete provenance for the years 1933-45. The British Museum welcomes information and assistance in the investigation and clarification of the provenance of all works during that era.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number