WILSON, After Richard (1714-1782)
Kilgarren Castle in South Wales
London: John Boydell, 17 July 1775. Engraving, coloured by hand, by William Elliott. (One expertly repaired marginal tear and some dust soiling to margins). Image size (including text): 14 1/8 x 19 7/8 inches. Sheet size: 19 5/16 x 24 5/16 inches.
Kilgarren, or rather 'Cilgerran Castle stands on a precipitous, craggy promontory overlooking the river Teifi where it merges with the Plysgog stream. The Teifi here is just at its tidal limit, so the castle was able to control both a natural crossing point and the passage of seagoing ships. We cannot be sure when this strong site was first fortified... Cilgerran is first mentioned by name in 1164, when the Lord Rhys captured the castle here. It was retaken by William Marshall, earl of Pembroke, in 1204, only to be taken again by the Welsh during Llywelyn the Great's campaigns in 1215. However, eight years later, William's son, another William, regained control, and it was probably he who built the imposing masonry castle we see today... In the 1370s an invasion from France was feared, and Edward III ordered that the now rather derelict Cilgerran be refortified. The north-west tower probably belongs to this period - it is clearly an addition, though so ruinous that it is difficult to date. After 1389, when the Hastings family died out, the castle passed to the crown, with which it was thenceforward closely associated. It may have been captured and held for a short time in 1405 during Owain Glyndwr's wars of independence; we know for certain that it was much damaged during the attack. But after that the castle's active military service came to an end. In the Tudor period, the Vaughan family were granted the castle by Henry VII, and they continued to occupy it until the early 17th century, when they built a new house nearby. The castle fell into ruin, but its picturesque setting made it an early favorite among tourists who, from the 18th century, could visit by boat from Cardigan.' Richard Wilson 'was born at Penegoes in Montgomeryshire...on 1 Aug. 1714. His mother was one of the Wynnes of Leeswold. His father...gave his son, who does not seem to have gone to school, an excellent classical education. With the assistance of Sir George Wynne, Wilson was sent to London in 1729, and placed with Thomas Wright, a portrait-painter, of whom little is known. Wilson began his artistic career as a portrait-painter, and attained some position in that branch of the profession... In 1749 Wilson went to Italy, and there he painted a landscape which excited the admiration of Francesco Zuccarelli, who advised him to take to landscape-painting. This was at Venice, and either there or at Rome Horace Vernet encouraged him to do the same. The French painter also exchanged landscapes with him and showed Wilson's in his own studio with generous praise to all comers. Wilson soon gained a considerable reputation in Italy as a landscape-painter... Wilson is now acknowledged to be one of the greatest of English landscape-painters. His art was based upon that of Salvator Rosa, Gaspar Poussin, and Claude. It was inspired by the scenery of Italy, and especially of the Campagna, with its clear bright skies and ancient ruins. It was somewhat formal and careless of detail, but in grandeur of design, in breadth of treatment, in the harmony of its rich but quiet colour, and in the rendering of space and air, Wilson has few rivals. His pictures of his own country, like the noble Snowdon from Nantlle, lent by Mr. F. Worsley-Taylor to the 1899 exhibition in the corporation of London art gallery, are among his finest works; and, though they have a strong resemblance to his pictures of Italy, they contain much local truth of form and atmosphere. He used a very restricted palette, and painted with one brush.' (DNB).