Rocky landscape thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Paintings, Room 87, The Edwin and Susan Davies Galleries

Rocky landscape

Oil Painting
1875 (painted)

Oil painting, 'Rocky Landscape' or 'Wild Water', Benjamin Williams Leader, 1875

Object details

Object type
  • Rocky landscape (generic title)
  • Wild Water
Materials and techniques
Oil on canvas
Brief description
Oil painting, 'Rocky Landscape' or 'Wild Water', Benjamin Williams Leader, 1875
  • Estimate height: 47in
  • Estimate width: 71in
  • Height: 163cm (Frame dimensions)
  • Width: 225cm (Frame dimensions)
  • Weight: 100kg
  • Depth: 16cm (Frame dimensions)
Dimensions taken from Summary catalogue of British Paintings, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973
Marks and inscriptions
Signed and dated 1875
Credit line
Bequeathed by Joshua Dixon
Object history
Bequeathed by Joshua Dixon, 1886

Historical significance: Benjamin Williams Leader (1831-1923) was one of the most successful and prolific British landscape painters of the latter half of the 19th century. He began to exhibit at the Royal Academy in 1857, and continued until 1922. Leader concentrated on landscape scenes in the Midlands, Scotland and, in particular, North Wales. In a memoir he explained that his 'favourite subjects have always been home scenes - the banks of the Severn or the Thames, the outskirts of a village, commons bordered with whitewashed cottages reflected in reedy pools, the pine woods of Surrey, and the streams and wooded hills of North Wales. Wales has ever had great attractions for me, and many pictures have I painted of Bettws-y-Coed and Capel Curig.'

Rocky Landscape probably represents a scene in Snowdonia. It is almost certainly identical with the picture exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1875 under the title Wild Water. A critic reviewing this Academy exhibition in the Art Journal described the painting as 'a hillstream in spate, and comes dashing over a slight rocky fall with an impetuosity which the artist must have studied and seized on the spot.' The critic goes on to suggest that this painting marked a new departure for the artist: 'Mr Leader always had delicacy and refinement, what he lacked was breadth and strength; and now that he has both, let him go forward bravely, fearing nothing.' (pp.247-8.)

The popular pictorial image of Snowdonia was invented by the Welsh landscape painter Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782) in the 1760s; however, the landscape became much more accessible from the 1840s, especially after the arrival of the railway at the coastal resort of Llandudno in 1848 encouraged large scale tourism from Liverpool and further afield. David Cox (1783-1859) visited Betws-y-Coed (the gateway to Snowdonia) to paint every year between 1844-56, encouraging many other artists to work there. In 1863 the railway line linking Llandudno Junction with Betws-y-Coed was begun, and completed in 1868.

This painting was bequeathed to the V&A by Joshua Dixon (1811-1885), a successful cotton merchant. In addition to oil paintings, watercolours and drawings, his collection also included engravings, Japanese vases and panels, and bronze and marble sculpture. Born in Dalston, north-east London, Dixon died on his estate of Winslade Park in Somerset and left his collection initially to the Bethnal Green Museum, which is part of the V&A, for the 'benefit of the people of East London.'
Subjects depicted
Accession number

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Record createdFebruary 27, 2007
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