Early 19th-Century British School

River Landscape With Women Washing Laundry

Early 19th-Century British School

River Landscape With Women Washing Laundry

This charming early 19th-century British School oil painting depicts a river landscape with washerwomen, grazing sheep and upland scenery.

Under the gentle glow of a British summer, two women wash laundry alongside a broad expanse of shimmering river. Beyond them, the majestic forms of craggy peaks bring a sense of grandeur and allude to nature’s sublimity. Perhaps it’s Wales or the Lake District.

Landscape painting during the late Georgian period was essentially a second-rate endeavour with the art-buying aristocracy preferring the prestige of history painting or portraiture. But a handful of artists, such as Richard Wilson (1713-1782), were inspired by their European grand tours and sought to elevate its status. As such, they often added grandiosity to their work by selecting monumental views, which were backlit by a radiant sun.

Here, we see the hand of an artist aware of those ideas, yet applying them in a somewhat understated way. Note how they’ve drawn the eye to the figures via the use of colour, thus portraying them as the most important element. It’s an interesting inclusion and it suggests this could be a commission. Did the commissioner know this stretch of river and the ladies washing here?

Held within a later frame.

Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 36½” x 29” / 96cm x 73cm
Year of creation: c. 1800
Condition: Artwork presents well. Craquelure but the paint is stable. Frame with some light wear.

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