Topic: Subject or sitter

Can anyone help us identify the location of this painting? We know that Potter was actively painting in Lancashire, North Wales and made visits to Scotland. I suspect it's Lancashire but if anyone has anything to contradict/add then I'd be pleased to hear.

Gallery Oldham, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

Edward Stone,

This discussion is now closed. It was found that this painting depicts a location in Lancashire. A description has been added to the painting record, which will be visible on Art UK in due course.

Thank you to all for participating in this discussion. To those viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all comments that led to this conclusion.


Amanda Draper,

Hello Gallery Oldham (Rebecca?)
I've just asked the Royal Cambrian Academy if Potter exhibited the painting there; it appears to have been his preferred exhibition venue in the 1880s. There may have been a longer title in the catalogue. I'll forward any response. As you will know, he exhibited at the RA but mostly Welsh landscapes.

Do you have any info on the donor, John Ratcliffe, and where he obtained the painting?

Evelyn Russell,

I would suggest that it is not Scotland from the shape of the chimney, it is not typically Scottish architecture. This style is something I associate with the North of England.

William Grime,

In the 19th C, the breed of sheep could often identify an area to a specific location. They are not clear in the picture, so I cannot identify the breed, but they are not Welsh. Welsh Mountain sheep, native to North Wales, are smaller, have course, shorter wool, and small white faces, with a slight ginger tinge. If it is possble to enhance any of the individual sheep, someone may be able to identify the breed.

Gallery Oldham,

Hi Amanda (yes it's me, hope you're well!). Thanks. Links with the RCA are one of the things I'm looking in to. I spoke to a colleague there earlier in the week but am storing up a pile of questions for next time, and probably a visit a bit further down the line. I'd be interested to hear the answer, thank you for asking.

Thank you Andrea. I'm fairly sure we have that cutting on file but will check and add it if we haven't.

Thanks you Evelyn. Yes, I suspect someone with a knowledge of vernacular architecture might be able to help identify the location based on the cottage? I've attached a close-up of the cottage below.

Thank you William. I've attached a close-up of the group of sheep which should make it possible to zoom in for more detail. They're all facing the wrong way/a bit small for easy identification though I suspect!

Gallery Oldham,

Does anyone have any further thoughts on sheep breeds/chimney shapes...?!

Billy Crawford,

I am a retired farmer and well aware that country people see much more in paintings of this kind than townspeople do. I despair when I see haytime and harvest time pictures wrongly entitled.

Happily, we know this is dawn on Christmas Day. The sun looks to be rising over higher ground so we can guess we are in the west of the country. We are quite high up because the trees are poorly grown specimens and the cottage speaks of poverty. On the other hand, we are not in mountainous country; the sheep are on a root crop, probably turnip, stubble and, though I find the breed unidentifiable, they are definitely a lowland breed. My conclusion: most likely Lancashire.

Osmund Bullock,

A really intelligent and useful analysis, Billy: and in contrast to what causes you grief, one stemming from profound knowledge. Thank you.

Gallery Oldham,

Thank you so much Billy. This is exactly the sort of knowledge I was after!

Patty Macsisak,

Please consider that your painting may have been executed in the vicinity of Coniston and Torver Beck. The view below contains the rough pasture and mountain view similar to the one depicted in the painting.

Could it be that Mr. Potter made a holiday pilgrimage to Coniston to breathe the same air as Ruskin and walked along Cumbria Way until he found the place he wanted to paint? Perhaps someone with orienteering skills may be able to pinpoint a precise spot.

You will find a description of the Lakeside Walk between Coniston and Tover Beck here:

Title The Lake District
Rough Guide Travel Guides
Rough Guide. Lake District
Rough guides
Author Jules Brown
Edition illustrated
Publisher Rough Guides, 2002
ISBN 1858288940, 9781858288949
Length 265 pages
Page 102

By searching Google Images for each of the place names, you will see many photographs of each area along the way.

I was unable to find a match for the cottage.

Gallery Oldham,

Hello Patty.

Thank you very much for all this information. Very interesting. I will have to do some more digging into his biography.


Patty Macsisak,

Via eBooks, I found 19th century travel guides for the Lake District. You may want to compare routes to the one above. Also, suggest you involve locals in the search.

Scroll down to the picture below labeled "The south ridge of Coniston Old Man from the edge of The Cove...." The profile of the hill looks similar to your painting. It would be satisfying to think that Potter included a geographic feature named "Old Man" in this painting.

Could there have been hayricks and cottages that high up near Coniston Old Man? A clue to the location may be in the form of the hayricks. How local are the shapes of these? For example at Broadbottom in the 1930s they were pointed ( 1860s.htm). Billy Crawford may be able to help (I suspect he is right about Lancashire).

We have had two informed agricultural comments that the scene is most likely Lancashire. In the absence of amy recent new information or suggestions, I propose that the discussion is closed with the formal recomendation that the location depicted probably is indeed Lancashire.

Edward Stone,

The collection has been contacted about this recommendation.