After Richard Wilson RA, Cicero at his Villa - 18th-century chalk drawing

An original 18th-century chalk drawing, After Richard Wilson RA Cicero at his Villa.

A beautiful drawing in black chalk and stump after Richard Wilson’s painting ‘Cicero with his Friend Atticus and Brother Quintus at his Villa at Arpinum’. Richard Wilson RA (1714-1782) was an influential Welsh landscape painter, who is considered the ’father’ of British landscape painting, and was a major influence on J.M.W. Turner and John Constable.

Richard Wilson is best known for his Italianate landscapes, influenced by the grand classical style of Poussin, Claude and Zuccarelli. Wilson was born in Penegoes, Montgomeryshire but moved to London in 1729 to train under Thomas Wright. In 1750 he left London for Rome where he remained until 1757, and it was this period in Italy which was to be most influential on Wilson’s developing landscape style. Drawing was important to Wilson, and his preferred medium was black chalk and stump on a grey paper. Many of Wilson’s landscape oil paintings were based on the large number of drawings that he made during his Italian sojourn.

Wilson painted the subject of Cicero at his villa on three occasions, this drawing closest to the version now in the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford. William Woollett (1735-1785) also published an engraving after Wilson of the subject in 1778. The drawing shows the Roman orator Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) conversing with his friend Atticus and his brother Quintus at Arpinum. The villa of Cicero's birth is visible in the distance, where Cicero goes for 'undisturbed meditation, or uninterrupted reading or writing'. The friends remark on how the serenity of the landscape inspires them with wisdom and creativity, and in turn, Cicero extrapolates his ideals for social order in Rome.

This drawing, intriguingly, is accompanied by a heavier cream wove backing sheet inscribed ‘RWf. Romae 1756’, along with biographical details of Richard Wilson written posthumously in Italian. The format, size and paper used for the drawing, along with the initialled inscription, resemble that used by Wilson in his Dartmouth series of drawings, which are considered the zenith of his graphic oeuvre. Richard Wilson produced sixty-eight presentation drawings for the Earl of Dartmouth, recording the outstanding sites of interest for the Grand Tourist in the neighbourhood of Rome and Naples, of which only about one third exist today.

In black chalk and stump heightened with white chalk on grey-green laid paper. The drawing has been mounted onto a sheet of wove paper with window cut verso and ruled border, with additional brown paper strip border, as shown.

This is one of a small collection of works after Richard Wilson that we have for sale with the provenance: Covent Garden Gallery.

Inscribed in pencil with catalogue number on paper mount lower right. Inscribed on accompanying backing paper sheet, as shown.
Overall in good condition for its age. Some minor toning to the paper. Minor wear losses to the four far corners of the sheet. Please see photos for detail.
26.2cm x 39.6cm.

Richard Wilson RA (1714-1782) is best known as the earliest major British painter to concentrate on landscape. His stay in Italy, 1750 to 1757, was instrumental in developing his landscape style, influenced by the grand classical style of Poussin, Claude and Zuccarelli. On his return to London, Wilson hired several apprentices, including Thomas Jones and Joseph Farington. He continued to paint Italian landscapes, and also took commissions from English and Welsh landowners who wanted views of their estates painted in the Italian style, reminding them of their Grand Tours of Europe. Wilson was a founder member of the Royal Academy in 1768.

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Product code: JK-915

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