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Oil painting - A View of Snow Hill, Windsor Great Park
  • A View of Snow Hill, Windsor Great Park
    Benjamin West, born 1738 - died 1820
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A View of Snow Hill, Windsor Great Park

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Windsor Great Park, England (made)

  • Date:

    1799 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Benjamin West, born 1738 - died 1820 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on paper laid on canvas

  • Museum number:

    314-1885

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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West was the first American-born artist to gain international repute, becoming Historical Painter to King George III and second President of the Royal Academy. His ambitions were grand, and in later years grandiose: his apocalyptic Death on a Pale Horse measures 4.47 by 7.65 metres. Of his known oeuvre of nearly 750 works, only about thirty are landscapes. This fine example shows the artist himself, sketching on the left; his companion is James Dyer, a former soldier in the Horse Guards who became a life model at the Royal Academy Schools and was West's manservant for fifty years. It is one of a group of seven views in and around Windsor, where he rented a house from about 1780, presumably because he had been commissioned for a series of paintings in the Royal Chapel in Windsor Castle.

Place of Origin

Windsor Great Park, England (made)

Date

1799 (painted)

Artist/maker

Benjamin West, born 1738 - died 1820 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Oil on paper laid on canvas

Marks and inscriptions

B West 1799

Dimensions

Height: 23.5 in estimate, Width: 33 in estimate, Height: 82 cm Frame dimensions, Width: 107 cm Frame dimensions

Object history note

Purchased, 1885

Historical significance: Benjamin West (1738-1820) was born in Springfield, Pennsylvania, then a colony in British America. His parents were both from Quaker families. His early interest in painting was encouraged by meeting a young English artist, William Williams, who lent him books on the theory of art by Charles Alphonse Du Fresnoy and Jonathan Richardson. By the early 1750s, still in his mid-teens, he was painting overmantles and portraits. West painted his first history painting in 1756 and attracted the support of the Rev. W. Smith in Philadelphia, to which he moved the same year. With Smith's continuing support West travelled to Italy in 1760 and stayed until 1763, funding his stay by painting copies after old masters for wealthy Philadelphians. In 1763 he moved to London, planning to stay for a short while and then return home. He soon attracted the attention both of fellow artists and future patrons as a self-taught prodigy with the potential to be a great history painter. He was to live in Britain for the rest of his life.

West was the first American-born artist to gain international repute, becoming Historical Painter to King George III and second President of the Royal Academy. His ambitions were grand, and in later years grandiose: his apocalyptic Death on a Pale Horse measures 4.47 by 7.65 metres. He was also prolific, his known oeuvre produced during a 60 year career comprising over 700 works. His reputation at his death in 1820 was still high, but from the 1840s had gone into decline. In recent years his work and influence has been reappraised, particularly in Helmut von Erffa's and Allen Staley's Paintings of Benjamin West (1986).

Erffa, Helmut von and Allen Staley. The paintings of Benjamin West. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986, p. 432-433, cat. no. 476

The following is the full text of the entry:

"476 A View of Snow Hill, Windsor Great Park
1799
See color detail p.118
VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM, LONDON

Oil on paper mounted on canvas: 23½ X 33 in. (51.5 x 84 cm.)
Signed lower left: B. West 1799

PROV: Offered by West's sons to the United States in 1826 (48, "Landscape," 2 ft. X 2 ft. 9 in.) and sold by them, Robins, London, 22-25 May, 1829, lot 156 ("View in Windsor Great Park," 2 ft. x 2 ft. 9 in.), bt. by Smith for £68.5.0.; acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1885

EXH: RA 1799 (657) "A view of Snow Hill, Windsor Great Park"; West's Gallery 1822-28 (128) "View in Windsor Great Park"

LISTED: PC, p. 566 ("Cattle drinking at a Watering-place in the Great Park, Windsor, with Mr. West drawing," West, Gallery); UM, p. 531; Barlow, p. 435; BA, p. 18; Galt, p. 229; Dillenberger, p. 175 (366). [SEE BELOW FOR FULL ENTRIES]
LIT: Farington Diary, 1 Jan. 1799 (Farington 1978-, IV, p. 1123); Whitley 1928b, p. 312; William T. Whitley, Gilbert Stuart, Cambridge, Mass., 1932, pp. 21-22; Grant 1958, III, p. 221, fig. 213; Devanter 1973, p.767, fig. 3 and pl. IV; Kraemer 1975, p. 72

See No. 475, which appeared together with No. 476 at the Royal Academy in 1799. Whereas the former shows the view from Snow Hill in Windsor Great Park, the latter depicts the hill itself. It does not show Windsor Castle, or any other marked topographical features. The equestrian statue of George III, the so-called "Copper Horse," which now stands atop of Snow Hill at the end of the Long Walk, was only erected between 1829 and 1831.
The early lists of West's works and the Robins sale catalogue of May 1829, both indicate that No. 476 includes a self-portrait of the artist sketching. Additionally, the Robins catalogue identifies his companion as James Dyer, a former soldier in the Horse Guards and life model at the Royal Academy schools, who was West's servant for fifty years. According to the same source, the two horses are also portraits of West's own saddle horses.
Ruth Kraemer has loosely associated two small drawings in the Pierpont Morgan Library with No. 476; one shows a man wearing a broad-rimmed hat similar to that worn by West in the painting, while in the other the subject, who leans against a horse, wears a long coat and crosses his legs, as does West as he leans against a tree in No. 476. (1)

(1) Black chalk, 1¾ X 1½ in., and brown and black chalk,
3 15/16 X 3 13/16 in. (Kraemer 1975, p.72, nos. 159 and 160)."

LISTS [On page 585 of Erffa, Helmut von and Allen Staley]
PC: "A correct Catalogue of the Works of Mr. West," Public Characters of 1805, London, 1805 (in fact, published in 1804), pp.559-69.

UM: "A Correct List of the Works of Mr. West," Universal Magazine, III, 1805, pp.527-32

Barlow: Note 45 to The Coumbiad. A Poem, by Joel Barlow, Philadelphia, 1807, pp. 430-36 (on p.431 Barlow states that the list was given to him by West in 1802.

BA: "A Correct Catalogue of the Works of Benjamin West, Esq.," La Belle Assemblée or Bell's Court and Fashionable Magazine, IV, 1808, Supplement, pp.13-20.

Galt: "A Catalogue of the Works of Mr. West," in The Life, Studies, and Works of Benjamin West, Esq., President of the Royal Academy of London, by John Galt, London, 1820, Appendix II, pp.216-34.

Dillenberger: "Published Lists of West's Paintings" and "checklist of Known Religious Works by West," in Benjamin West: The Context of His Life's Work, by John Dillenberger, San Antonio, 1977, Appendices I and V, PP.129-90 and 210-15. (Dillenberger's Appendix I is a concordance of all the earlier lists cited above except that in the Universal Magazine, plus West's account of 1801 of his works for George III [which is cited in the PROVENANCES in this catalogue]. It is prefaced by a brief discussion of the publications in which they appeared.)

Descriptive line

Oil on paper on canvas, 'A View of Snow Hill, Windsor Great Park', Benjamin West, 1799

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Erffa, Helmut von and Allen Staley. The paintings of Benjamin West. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986, p. 432-433, cat. no. 476
See History section for full entry.
The Romantic Tradition in British painting 1800-1950, Masterpieces from the Victoria & Albert Museum, Exhibition, Japan, 2002/3. Cat. no. 2.
"West exhibited his first landscape at the Royal Academy in 1785. This modest landscape of Snow Hill is one of a pair exhibited in 1799. He painted seven views at or near Windsor, where he rented a house from the early 1780s until 1809. for West landscape offered a chance for relaxation. This view of the King's parklands does not show Windsor Castle or any other famous topographical feature, and there is no attempt here to 'elevate' the subject by the inclusion of classical figures. West has depicted himself as an admirer of nature, sketching alongside his servant John Dyer. Although the parklands were cultivated nature rather than wild, and the presence of man very apparent, West emphasises a mood of tranquil contemplation. (KC)". [Katherine Coombs]

Exhibition History

The Romantic Tradition in British Painting 1800-1950: Masterpieces from the Victoria and Albert Museum (Prefectural Museum of Art, Hyogo, Kobe, Japan 28/01/2003-06/04/2003)
The Romantic Tradition in British Painting 1800-1950: Masterpieces from the Victoria and Albert Museum (Koriyama City Museum of Art 22/11/2002-27/12/2002)
The Romantic Tradition in British Painting 1800-1950: Masterpieces from the Victoria and Albert Museum (Matsuzakaya Museum, Nagoya, Japan 19/10/2002-11/11/2002)
The Romantic Tradition in British Painting 1800-1950: Masterpieces from the Victoria and Albert Museum (Chiba Prefectural Museum of Art, Japan 24/08/2002-06/10/2002)

Materials

Paper; Canvas; Oil paint

Techniques

Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Landscape; Horse; Windsor Great Park

Categories

Paintings

Collection code

PDP

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