Completed British 19th C, except portraits, Wales: Artists and Subjects 29 Is this waterfall identifiable?

Topic: Subject or sitter

Is it in the Vale of Neath where Redgrave painted c.1832-3, a valley famous for its waterfalls? In 1833 Redgrave exhibited a named site as no 616 at the Royal Academy, Cwm Cafn This may be Nant y Cafn falls near Seven Sisters north east in the Dulais valley north of Crynant - and under 10 miles north east of Neath.

Martin Hopkinson, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. There were plausible suggestions for the painting's title relating to Redgrave's RA exhibits, but the subject could not be identified with certainty. The title has been updated from ‘Landscape’ to ‘Wooded Landscape with Waterfall’ to help with searches.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.


Gerald Lewis,

Go to and put SN8096 into the search box. Amongst the photographs shown are two of waterfalls which are similar to the painting. You could also search in nearby 1 km squares.

Jacob Simon,


This discussion concerns a small “Landscape”, a wooded waterfall view, signed by Richard Redgrave, in the collection at Bradford. Launched in May 2021, it attracted four contributions in the first four days and then went quiet.

I think there is a reason for this. And that is that the waterfall is very likely not identifiable with any certainty. Why? Firstly, in the space of almost 200 years the wooded vegetation will have changed significantly. Secondly, the more permanent features of the landscape such as the rocks may not have been accurately depicted by the artist as he sought the most picturesque and attractive landscape view.

On this basis while interesting suggestions can be made, as in the first few days of the discussion, it will very likely prove impossible to identify the waterfall with any degree of certainty.

Meaning that the answer to the discusion question would be “NO”.

Jacinto Regalado,

The current title is too generic for search purposes. It should be made more specific; I suggest something like "Wooded Landscape with Waterfall."

Jacinto Regalado,

This might be Redgrave's "A well-spring in the forest," shown at the RA in 1877 (No. 686 in the RA catalogue).

Jacinto Regalado,

Nothing shown by Redgrave at the British Institution matches this picture. Does the collection have any provenance or other relevant information in its files from the seller of this painting in 1970?

Osmund Bullock,

I'm not sure I'd call its overall appearance "shadowy"; and a well-spring suggests to me water coming out of the ground, with the artist's focus on where it does, perhaps into a pool. Either is possible, I suppose - but the titles would surprise me slightly.

What hasn't been mentioned before is that at the top there are two significant man-made details: (a) to the left a little bridge spanning the small ravine from which the stream likely emerges before tumbling down the rock-face (and if that's a correct analysis, then certainly not a well-spring); and (b) on the right a quite substantial house built at the top of the rocky cliff/hillside and looking out over it - apparently with two gables, perhaps half-timbered, with possibly other building(s) attached. The bridge may lead to the house. So we're not really looking up into wild, wooded mountains, but probably at a scene in or close to a more developed area.

Marion, could we see those details from Art UK's higher-res image, please?

Osmund Bullock,

On reflection the phrase "... Redgrave ... makes a shadowy appearance" might possibly refer to the artist himself being in the picture: certainly in the right foreground there appears to be a seated artist at work, plus companion.

Jacob Simon,

Paintings exhibited in 1833, early in Redgrave's career, to 1877, much later, have been mentioned above. A snap of the picture frame might help narrow the dating.

As to the bridge and house spotted by Osmund's keen eye, are they topographical features or an artist's embellishment?

Osmund Bullock,

It's a good question, Jacob, but I tend think the house, at least, is an unlikely invention. Its size and position make it quite unimportant to the painting's composition - if anything it's a very slight distraction from the depicted artist and what he's recording. But even so, you can put your thumb over it on the screen and nothing really changes. However, I know nothing of Redgrave - perhaps he was uncomfortable with nature fully wild, and always sought to place a sign of man's work somewhere. A bit of background work needed there, though probably not by me just now...

Marcie Doran,

In fact, Osmund, I hadn't noticed the artist at work in this painting until I read that article from 1874, despite looking at this discussion and searching for waterfalls many times.

Here is 'Startled Foresters', which was exhibited in the same year as "Sermons in Stones".

Marcie Doran,

Here's some sale information that hopefully is related to this work. Were there auction marking on the back of paintings sold by Mssrs. Christie, Manson & Woods in 1880?


Is it possible to obtain an image of the man dressed in black who is seated behind the artist? I suspect that he is supposed to be holding a religious text and sermonizing about nature.

Jacinto Regalado,

Marcie, I expect the figure in black is a woman.

Marcie Doran,

Yes, perhaps the figure in black is a woman.

To quote J.D.C. Maskeck, ‘Artists were often told to study nature, to read nature closely like a text, and this advice was often supported by reference or allusion to “tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones,” (As You Like it, II, 1)’.

The possible title of this picture relates to this tradition, established long before Shakespeare, and echoed by Ruskin, espouser of the Pre-Raphaelites, who wrote how nature reveals God’s handwork. As an artist on the fringes of Pre-Raphaelitism, especially in his landscapes, Redgrave, like every mid-19th century artist, would have known Ruskin’s works well. This painting depicts an artist recording a landscape of “trees…brooks…stones” – and hence the title.

Jacob Simon,

I've had a look at the Richard Redgrave exhibition catalogue and at his memoirs and found nothing to help.

Marcie Doran,

Here’s a notice for that auction of 29 May 1880 (10/03/2023 18:43). Two of Redgrave’s paintings, likely “purchased directly” from him, were offered for sale by William Banbury (d. 1893), a banker who had been renting a mansion in Reading.

It does seem to me plausible that this is Redgrave's 'Sermons on Stones' exhibited 1877, the depiction of n artist paiting form life s soem evidece. The waterfall itself is unlikely to be identified and rather irrelevant in what would be a painting with a symbolic, universal measage.

Some good suggestions were made early on by Andrew Wooliscroft - and raise the issue of dating: if early (1833) then possibly 'Cwm Cafn', if late (1877) then possibhy 'Sermons in Stones'.

Osmund Bullock,

"... the depiction of n artist paiting form life s soem evidece."

Andrew, sorry, but could you clarify what you were trying to say in that sentence - there seems to be something wrong with your keyboard?

Oh, and is anyone else getting a problem with repeated requests for a Captcha verification before posting, or is it my sytem that's at fault?

Marcie Doran,

Could this show Tillingbourne Waterfall in Abinger, Surrey? See photo 15 at this link:

The website at the link below reports the following fact for 1888:

"Richard Redgrave RA (1804-88) English subject painter, died 14th December. He was appointed Surveyor of The Queen’s Pictures in 1857. Redgrave painted many scenes in the Abinger area. Several of his paintings show St. James’ church in backgrounds. A plaque in Abinger church to his memory says '… who spent 34 summers in the village'."

Marcie Doran,

My comment was successful on my first attempt, Osmund.

Jacob Simon,

Our scene is much grander and more rugged than the Surrey countryside.

According to Marcie's post (07/03/2023) Redgrave’s “Sermons in Stones” was in the RA in 1874. Or was it 1877, see Andrew, 25/04/2024?