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Creator:
John Frederick Lewis, 1804–1876, British
Title:

Figures and Animals in a Vineyard

Date:
ca. 1829
Medium:
Watercolor and gouache with gum over graphite, with scratching out on thick, moderately textured, cream wove paper
Dimensions:
Sheet: 16 1/2 × 20 1/2 inches (41.9 × 52.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
B1975.4.2005
Classification:
Drawings & Watercolors
Collection:
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
dogs (animals) | donkey | food | genre subject | grapes | harvest | horses (animals) | men | priest | reading | village | vineyards
Access:
View by request in the Study Room [Request]
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Link:
https://collections.britishart.yale.edu/catalog/tms:10746
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In 1827 Lewis crossed the Alps into the Val d’Aosta, journeying on through northern Italy, and visiting Verona and Venice before returning home late in the year. His travels in Italy inspired a series of richly colored watercolors depicting the lives of simple peasants, often at their devotions. In this example workers pause from gathering grapes to join a seated Capuchin friar who leads them in reciting from his breviary.

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)
In 1827 Lewis was elected an Associate of the Society of Painters in Water-Colours and set offon his first Continental tour, traveling through Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland before reaching Italy. By October 1827 he crossed the Alps into the Val d'Aosta and journeyed on through northern Italy, visiting Verona and Venice, before returning home late in he vear. His travels in Italy inspired a series of richly colored watercolors such as Figures and Animals in a Vineyard, which depict the lives of simple peasants, often at their devotions. In this example, workers pause from gathering grapes to join a seated Capuchin friar, who leads them in reciting his breviary. Other Lewis watercolors also share this theme, with friars shown at wayside shrines or reciting their prayers in the open air amongst workers, most often in vineyards. Lewis was still digesting the full impact of Richard Parkes Bonington (cat. no. 73) and his friend David Wilkie (cat. no. 61), whose figurative works focused on the picturesque aspects of history or contemporary peasant and religious life. Moreover, the theme was popular, if a little daring. Britain had finally passed a hotly debated Catholic Emancipation Act with the Duke of Wellington's support in 1829, when Lewis was working on these watercolors. Critics were appalled by the concessions granted to the Catholic Church and made dire warnings about future papal ambitions in England. Despite such antipathy, there was widespread fascination with Continental Catholic devotions, a mood that Lewis tapped into with this series of peasant scenes. They earned him growing recognition as a major new force in watercolor painting. In 1829 George Fennel Robson (cat, no. 64) is said to have urged him to work in watercolor exclusively and helped him get elected as a full member of the Society of Painters in Water-Colours. The success of these works was followed up by further tours of the Continent - chiefly Spain - the watercolors from which elicited rapturous reviews. John Sell Cotman (cat. nos. 57-58) became even more depressed than ever about his own efforts when he saw "above three hundred most splendid drawings by Lewis. . .. Words cannot convey their splendour," he continued, "My poor Reds, Blues and Yellows - for which I have . .. been so much abused and broken-hearted about are faded fades to what I saw there."

Matthew Hargraves

Hargraves, Matthew, and Scott Wilcox. Great British Watercolors: from the Paul Mellon collection. New Haven: Yale Center for British Art, 2008, p. 175, no. 76

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]

Works of Splendor and Imagination - The Exhibition Watercolor 1770-1870 (Yale Center for British Art, 1981-09-16 - 1981-11-22) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Jane Bayard, Works of splendor and imagination, The exhibition watercolor, 1770-1870 , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1981, p. 76, pl. 78, ND1928 B39 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Yale Center for British Art, Great British watercolors : from the Paul Mellon Collection, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2007, pp. 175-77, no. 77, ND1928 .Y35 2007 (LC)+ Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]


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