viernes, 1 de julio de 2016


Christa Zaat

Benjamin Williams Leader (British painter) 1831 - 1923
The Valley of Sweet Waters, 1877
oil on canvas
36 1/4 x 24 1/8 in. (92 x 61.2 cm.)
signed B.W. LEADER and dated 1877 (lower left)
inscribed Sweet Water.../Snow on the ...horn and signed B.W. Leader in pencil on the stretcher
private collection

Catalogue Note
Benjamin Williams Leader did not enter this Swiss landscape in his Records of Paintings Sold, although it is possible the artist could have presented the work, as a gift, to one of his art dealers or a private client.

Leader is best known for his landscapes depicting the rivers and villages of his birth county Worcestershire and the heath land and villages of southern England near his home, Burrows Cross, in Surrey where he resided from 1888 until his death in 1931. He also captured on canvas, from the outset of his career, the more sublime mountainous landscapes of Scotland and Wales. Swiss alpine scenes date from 1873 and were the result of a trip he made to the continent during the autumn of the previous year with Robert Collier; an Attorney General and Judge of the Privy Council. Their friendship had developed through the love of painting, although for Sir Robert it was just a gentlemanly pastime.

Leader had problems painting his first Swiss subject The Wellhorn from Rosenlaui.1 He "...found it about the most difficult subject ever tackled...The picture is rich and strong but I don't like the contrast of the blue sky and snow mountains with the rich warm foreground and whether I shall get both to harmonize and get the confounded fir trees to my mind more than I at the present can tell" (Diary 11 February 1873). In spite of Leader's misgivings the painting was submitted to the 1873 Royal Academy Exhibition and was praised by the Art Journal critic who stated, "It is clearly and firmly painted, with excellent perception of atmospheric influences."2

The source of Sweet Waters, dated 1877, may originate from sketches made during his trip in 1872 but equally from a more recent visit made in 1876 when on honeymoon after his marriage to Mary Eastlake Locke in August. Leader noted on his return he had made a number of sketches. Sweet Waters is a very fine example of Leader's distinctive and independent style: his great confidence, with both brush and paint, to exploit the atmospheric conditions of a late autumnal day near Grindelwald in the canton of Bernese Oberland. Against the backdrop of the majestic snow capped Wellerhorn and the pine trees, the clear "sweet waters" tumble down the mountainside around rocky boulders.

Close inspection of the carefully balanced composition reveals the artist's skill in his indisputable impressionistic technique. Leader's method of painting ranges from a very thin application of colour through which, in places, the canvas surface can be observed, to thicker, even impasto over painting consisting of dashes and dabs of the paintbrush. The combination of these, seemingly, casual brush strokes not only creates an effective and naturalistic scene but also materializes into identifiable details enhancing the viewer's interest. For example, the white highlights not only act as perspective devices but also resemble the flower heads of the grasses on the near bank, the transparency of the waterfalls, the calcareous rocks and the tips of the fronds in the foreground, the festoons of moss hanging from the pine branches to the snow on the peaks. There is even Leader's usual limited, but equally effective, use of red for the last of the season's berries clinging to a leafless bough.

1 The Art Journal Vol.XII, 1873, page 238.
2 Ruth Wood, Benjamin Williams Leader R.A., 1831-1923: His Life and Paintings, Antique Collectors Club, 1998, reproduced on page 46, col. pl. 25.

el dispensador dice:
¿no la has visto?,
mi alma corre por allí.
JULIO 01, 2016.-

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