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David Cox, 1783–1859
Windermere During the Regatta
Materials & Techniques:
Watercolor, pen and red ink, brown ink, gray ink, gouache, graphite, gum arabic, and scratching out on medium, slightly textured, cream wove paper
Sheet: 17 3/4 x 24 inches (45.1 x 61 cm)

Signed and dated in red watercolor, lower left: "D. Cox. 1832"

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
boats | costume | dogs (animals) | flowers (plants) | genre subject | gondolas | lake | landscape | mountains | parasols | people | races | regatta | sailboats | sailing | stairs | terrace
Associated Places:
Bassenthwaite Lake | Lake District | United Kingdom | Windermere
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IIIF Manifest:

Of the more than eight hundred works that Cox exhibited at the SPWC during his long and prolific career, only three were scenes of the Lake District: Windermere during the Regatta and a watercolor titled Langdale Pikes, both exhibited in 1832, and Windermere Lake, exhibited in 1837. He apparently visited the lakes only once, in 1831. Given Cox's taste for the mountainous landscape of North Wales, which he indulged throughout his life and turned to notable account in his art, his lack of interest in the Lake District, popularly known as the "British Alps," is strange. His frequent visits to the tidal sands of Morecambe Bay (see cats. 60-61 and 88-89), which borders the Lake District, would have frequently brought him in proximity to the lakes. It also seems surprising that when Cox did depict Lakeland scenery in Windermere during the Regatta, he chose not to reflect the sublimity and solitude characteristic both of the lakes and of much of his own art. The fashionable regatta crowd is a far cry from the rustic simplicity of Lakeland life celebrated by Wordsworth, which would seem particularly congenial to Cox.
The first regatta in the Lake District was held on Bassenthwaite Lake in 1779. Other lakes quickly followed suit, and as the number of tourist visitors increased, the regattas grew from low-key gatherings for the benefit of the locals - with sailing races, rowing contests, foot races, and wrestling matches - to become much more elaborate and genteel affairs - with mock naval battles, fireworks, and balls. A mid-nineteenth-century guide to the lakes titled The British Switzerland describes the Windermere regattas of that period:

These delightful exhibitions attract most of the families of distinction, and the inhabitants of the neighbouring county, to the lake, which, on these festive days, is literally covered with boats and barges, forming splendid aquatic processions, attended by bands of music, and crowded with gay and mirthful parties. A more enlivening spectacle cannot be conceived: the sublime scenery, the music with its soul-enchanting echoes, the variety of costume, and "prime ornament of all," the enrapturing smile of many an "English flower," - these together convert the charming solitude into a high festival, of which even the legends of fairyland can furnish no example.1

There were two annual regattas on the lake: one at the Ferry Inn (about halfway up the lake), the other at Lowood Inn (near its northern end). From the presence of Brathay Hall (the blocky white form across the lake) and the distinctive outline of Langdale Pikes in Cox's view, it is clear that he meant to represent the Lowood regatta; however, the terrace is grander than anything at the inn or anywhere else in the vicinity. Indeed, Cox's image is a refined confection, with a nod to Antoine Watteau (see pp. 23-24 in this volume), bearing only a superficial resemblance to any festivities celebrated on the lake in his time.

[1] Rose, ca. 1858-60, p.22.

Scott Wilcox

Scott Wilcox, Sun, wind, and rain : the art of David Cox, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2008, pg. 185, cat. no. 57, NJ18 .C829 W542 + Oversize (YCBA)

Sun, Wind, and Rain - The Art of David Cox (Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, 2009-01-31 - 2009-05-03) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

Sun, Wind, and Rain - The Art of David Cox (Yale Center for British Art, 2008-10-16 - 2009-01-04) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

Fairest Isle - The Appreciation of British Scenery 1750-1850 (Yale Center for British Art, 1989-04-12 - 1989-06-25) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Acquisitions : The First Decade 1977-1986, Yale Center for British Art , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1986, pp. 6, 25, no. 78, col. pl. 9, N590.2 A7 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Duncan Robinson, Acquisitions : The First Decade 1977 - 1986, , Burlington Magazine, vol. 128, October 1986, p. 6, 25, no. 78, color pl. 9, N1 B87 128:3 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Duncan Robinson, Fairest isle : the appreciation of British scenery, 1750-1850, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1989, p. 5, no. 20, ND1354.4 F35 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Scott Wilcox, Sun, wind, and rain : the art of David Cox, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2008, pp. 22-5, 29, 182, 184-6, 210, no. 57, fig. 14, NJ18 .C829 W542 + Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

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