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Creator:
Thomas Hearne, 1744–1817, British
Title:

River Landscape with Figures

Date:
undated
Medium:
Gray wash, pen and black ink, gouache, and graphite on medium, slightly textured, beige wove paper mounted on moderately thick, slightly textured, beige wove paper
Dimensions:
Contemporary drawn border: 12 × 9 3/4 inches (30.5 × 24.8 cm), Sheet: 11 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches (29.2 x 24.1 cm), and Mount: 12 1/8 × 10 inches (30.8 × 25.4 cm)
Inscription(s)/Marks/Lettering:

Inscribed on mount in pen and brown ink, lower left: "105x"; in pen and brown ink, lower center: "Hearne"; in pen and brown ink, lower right: "WE"

Signed in pen and brown ink, lower left: "Hearne"

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
B1975.4.1241
Classification:
Drawings & Watercolors
Collection:
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
figures | forest | gathering | genre subject | landscape | path | river | sailboats | sticks | trail | trees | walking | wood
Access:
View by request in the Study Room [Request]
Note: The Study Room is open by appointment. Please visit the Study Room page on our website for more details.
Link:
https://collections.britishart.yale.edu/catalog/tms:10545
Export:
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IIIF Manifest:
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Eighteenth-century theorists argued that picturesque subjects relied on irritation of the retina for their effect, thereby producing a pleasing sensation in the viewer. With its sharp contrasts between light and dark and rough and smooth textures, Hearne’s wooded path offers precisely the kind of visual stimulation commentators praised as quintessentially picturesque.

Gallery label for Great British Watercolors from the Paul Mellon Collection at the Yale Center for British Art (Yale Center for British Art, 2008-06-09 - 2008-08-17)
Hearne had depicted this particular ritual of crossing the Avon, with a ferryman taking passengers to and fro between the South Parade and Spring Gardens, and a steady stream of clients waiting to make the same trip. Hearne executed this watercolor with engraving in black and white in mind, which accounts for its sharp detail, except in the terraces climbing up the hill, where he had left their lower sections indistinct to heighten the sense of distance. But Hearne was making a finished work fit for exhibition in its own right. Much of Bath's visual unity derives from the warm limestone used in most of its buildings, and Hearne has emulated that sense of unity through the rose-tinted coloring of the buildings and matching autumnal foliage. The result is an image of the city as a placfe of delightful harmony and social pleasure, the "earthly paradise" audiences aspired to inhabit. By contrast, River Landscape with Figures is more characteristic of the artist's pure landscape work made direct from nature. This view of a woodland track running alongside a river or an estuary is typical of his tendency to select subjects showing venerable old trees alongside pools, lakes, and rivers. By abandoning color to work entirely in monochrome, Hearne forces the viewer to attend to the formal elements of the picture: roughness, variety, and intricacy. It was precisely these characteristics that were appreciated as picturesque by the end of the eighteenth century. In 1794 Hearne helped to promote the picturesque aesthetic by illustrating one of its key texts, The Landscape, a didactic poem written by Richard Payne Knight (1750-1824). Knight's poem criticized landowners who transformed their estates in the manner of Capability Brown by creating vast expanses of trimmed lawn and clumps of trees. Instead, the poet rhapsodized over the "neglected vale" untouched by the hand of improvers, places that were still essentially wild. Knight believed that such picturesque places relied on irritation of the retina for their effect, thereby producing a pleasing sensation in the viewer. Hence, any surface that was characterized by sharp contrasts between light and dark or texture was capable of giving pleasure by stimulating the eye. Hearne's wooded path offers precisely the sentially picturesque. Moreover, this fondness for all that was hallowed by time and untouched by change reflected Hearne's own political conservatism. As his obituary reported: "On Subjects of a political nature, upon which he bestowed much attention, [he was] a constant and strenuous Supporter of good order and established Government in opposition to Vague Theories and Innovation."

Matthew Hargraves

Hargraves, Matthew, and Scott Wilcox. Great British Watercolors: from the Paul Mellon collection. New Haven: Yale Center for British Art, 2008, p. 41, no. 14

Great British Watercolors from the Paul Mellon Collection at the Yale Center for British Art (Yale Center for British Art, 2008-06-09 - 2008-08-17) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Great British Watercolors from the Paul Mellon Collection at the Yale Center for British Art (The State Hermitage Museum, 2007-10-23 - 2008-01-13) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Great British Watercolors from the Paul Mellon Collection at the Yale Center for British Art (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2007-07-11 - 2007-09-30) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Yale Center for British Art, Great British watercolors : from the Paul Mellon Collection, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2007, pp. 40-41, no. 14, ND1928 .Y35 2007 (LC)+ Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]


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