British 18th C, except portraits, London: Artists and Subjects 12 Could this Italian landscape be an early work by William Hodges (1744–1797)?

Topic: Artist

Looking at this painting in the Ferens Art Gallery recently, I wondered if there was any mileage in it possibly being an early work by William Hodges, as one of Richard Wilson’s pupils.

It was more the painting and colouration than the composition that prompted the thought, especially the distant background. Hodges's isolated trees later got much more angular, but this one is heading that way. The Art UK image is too blue: it’s a rather warmer picture with more ochre in the background impasto, for example. Does anyone have other views for or against?

Pieter van der Merwe, Maritime Subjects, Entry reviewed by Art UK


Robin Simon,

Good thinking, Pieter! I shall have good look at this in so far as I can cowering away at home. But the spare composition hits an immediate button.

Martin Hopkinson,

He had an unsuccessful one man show of 25 pictures at Orme's Gallery in London in December 1794 - that night not have included older pictures
Ingamells should record any visits to Italy
Stone pines seem to be found in many Mediterranean countries

James Mitchell 01,

Pieter, I fully agree with your attribution. It's one of those pictures where he's in full Richard Wilson mode, and yet he manages to leave his own distinctive 'imprimatur' on it, notably the way the paint seems to 'run' in a few places. We have a good copy by Hodges of Wilson's 'Falls at Tivoli' (at Dulwich) and it bears all the same hallmarks. Furthermore, as I understand it from Isabel Coombs Stuebe (monograph on Hodges, 1979?), there is no evidence that, even though he had sailed around the world (!), Hodges ever went to Italy, but this did not prevent him from doing Italianate views.

Thanks James: correct - he didn't go to Italy, or leave England I think before sailing with Cook on his second Pacific voyage (1772-75), and after that it was just (!) to India to my best recollection. The show that Martin mentions in 1794 was the one that was intended to recoup his fortunes afte that but which the Duke of York closed down because his large 'Effects of Peace' and 'Consequences of War' paintings, its centrepieces, were judged radical and unpatriotic in the early days of the French Revolutionary War. Quite apart from the show's failure, it made the large subscription prints done from these two paintings more wasted money and the result was that he sold up both the show and the rest of his stock -for disappointingly little -, retreated to Devon and invested in a small bank which was then itself brought down by a general crash in 1797: he caught a chill riding over to close it down, died shortly afterwards as a result (though suicide also rumoured), as did his wife before long, leaving their orphaned children in dire straits.

If the Ferens picture is Hodges, then it might be 'studio stock' but I can't remember -nor have reference to hand- where his sale was or if there's a known catalogue of it. My wife (oil paintings conservator) points out that the impasto has been flattened in old hot-lining, producing characteristic 'moating' effects around original high points that the raking light by which I took the phone-snaps shows up.

The 'Peace' and 'War' prints are as rare as hens teeth: NMM was offered copies (trimmed of all lettering) just too late to do more than mention them in the catalogue of its Hodges show in 2004 (ed. G. Quilley and J. Bonehill): here are the online links to them, since not widely known:

My apologies for the confused captioning of the NMM prints above: there is an editing duplication / confusion (inc of the numbering) in the opening para which I hadn't noticed and which I'll get fixed as soon as possible, though things clarify further down.

Martin Hopkinson,

There is a gap in his exhibition history at the RA between 1779 and 1784
Did Hodges exhibit these Wilsonian confections then at commercial outlets?

Martin Hopkinson,

The middle ground reminds me a little of his friend Wright of Derby's Caserta which is a made-up view

Martin: Hodges left 'for' India in either late 1778/ or early '79, arriving in January 1780, and 'from' India late in November 1783, so was presumably back in England mid-year '84, which accounts for the exhibiting gap. (I'd forgotten he also later went to St Petersburg but haven't checked by what route, though not relevant here, since this picture would be early not late.)

Please support your comments with evidence or arguments.

jpg, png, pdf, doc, xls (max 6MB)
Drop your files here
Attach a file Start uploading

Sign in

By signing in you agree to the Terms & Conditions, which includes our use of cookies.