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View on the River WyeEnlarge image

View on the River Wye, c. 1830

Unknown (British - 19th century)

oil on paper, mounted to canvas
49.5 x 66.5 cm; image: 48.4 x 65 cm
Gift of Robert A. Pacaud, Ottawa, 1989, in memory of his father George W. Pacaud
National Gallery of Canada (no. 30388)

An artist sketches the celebrated view, the very definition of the picturesque. This new idea equated Nature and Art: such sites were seen to be "picture-like", reminiscent of seventeenth-century landscape painting. Beauty was found in the irregular, the wild - as if Nature had designed the scene for our pleasure. The work is carefully composed to emphasize the thrilling sight: elevated above the figures, we can scan the whole image at once; the tree to the right sharply demarcates fore- and background, anchoring us in space. The paint is applied thinly; the distant view is painted over purple, imbuing the vista with the hue of the setting sun, the foreground over a warmer earth colour. Frame: press-moulded composition over wooden carcass, gilded. Britain, first half 19th century.

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