Oil painting, 'View at Hampstead', Richard Corbould, 1806
Height: 19.5 in estimate, Width: 23.5 in estimate, Height: 66 cm, Width: 76 cm
Hampstead became a popular spa in the early eighteenth century. It offered visitors an area with a 'fine prospect' in which to ride. By the late eighteenth century Hampstead Heath also became a popular destination for both poets and artists. In 1777 Richard Wilson's (1713-1782) pupil Robert Crone (c.1718-1779) exhibited View of Hampstead and Highgate at the Royal Academy (RA no.74, location unknown). The poet Leigh Hunt (1784-1859), who had written the first of his five sonnets To Hampstead Heath whilst in prison in 1813, settled there in 1816. Amongst his visitors were the poets Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), who admired the sunsets from Hampstead, Lord Byron (1788-1824), and John Keats (1795-1821. Although Corbould was one of the first artists to extensively depict Hampstead, Constable is the artist most associated with this part of London. He moved to the village in 1820. Soon after he began to paint a number of oil sketches en plein air,in the open air, of his new surrounds. These sketches would have a considerable impact on artists to follow. During the nineteenth century other artists including William Collins (1788-1847) and John Linnell (1729-1796) also painted the landscape of Hampstead.
Bequeathed by John M. Parsons, 1870.
John Meeson Parsons (1798-1870), art collector was born in Newport, Shropshire. Following studying privately at Oxford, he moved to London and became a member of the stock exchange. He became interested in railways and was elected an associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers on the 5th February, 1839. From 1843-1848 he was director of the London and Brighton Railway Company, working as chairman from 1843-1844. He was also director of the Shropshire Union railway from 1845 to 1848.
At the time of his death Parson had acquired a large collection of oil paintings from mainly German and Dutch schools and English watercolours. In his will he offered 100 of his oil paintings to the National Gallery, the trustees chose only three. His will stipulated that if the National Gallery did not accept the whole gift, the Department of Science and Art at South Kensington (Later the Victoria and Albert Museum) should be allowed to choose some works from his collection. In 1870 the department chose ninety-two oil paintings and forty-seven watercolours. Parsons also left a number of engravings from his collection to the British Museum.
Historical significance: Richard Corbould (1757-1831) was born in London. He worked in oil and watercolour, painting portraits, landscapes, history and still life. He also painted miniatures on enamel and ivory and worked as an illustrator. He produced illustrations for various publications including Pamela in Cooke’s pocket edition of ‘English Classics’, as well as children’s books and non-fiction. Corbould had a talent for imitating the paintings of old masters whilst working with an originality of his own. He exhibited at the Free Society of Artists in from1776 and at the Royal Academy from 1777 until 1811. He is last documented exhibiting at the British Institution in 1817. Corbould was one of the main artists to depict Hampstead Heath. His work predates that of Constable (1776-1837) who famously drew inspiration from the landscape in his en plein air sketches and oil paintings, after moving to the area in 1820.
The viewpoint of this composition is close to that of Constables Hampstead Heath (V&A collections, museum number FA.35) from 1820. Both paintings show a pond in the Vale of the Heath, along the southern end of the Heath with Squire’s Mount in the right distance. While Constable’s painting looks east towards Highgate, Corbould’s painting turns the viewpoint slightly to the north east. In comparison to the rugged open landscape of Constable’s Hampstead Heath (FA.35), Corbould’s landscape appears more controlled. The landscape is framed by trees on both the left and right of the painting. Trees also follow the curve of the pond, leading our eyes to the house on the knoll and the distant view across London. Central London, and the dome of St. Paul’s is visible in a small gap in the trees to the left.
This painting may be View towards London from Hampstead Heath that the artist showed at the British Institution in 1807. Today this area of Hampstead is largely built up. It is not known whether Corbould depicted all the trees present in the view or if he chose to keep some out to offer a longer view towards the City and St. Paul’s. The dome of St. Paul’s may not have been visible from this vantage point and the artist may have chosen to include it in reference to the fact that this landmark is visible from several points in the Heath. At the same time, painting a scene that combined fewer trees with the undulating contours of the heath recalls Arcadian views by artists such as Claude Lorrain (1604/5-1682) and the first major Britsih Landscape artist, Richard Wilson (1712-1782). As in the works of these artists, various figures are placed in the foreground of the painting. They are shown carrying out pursuits including fishing and riding, which together elevates the landscape to an ideal Arcadian setting. The focus on the calm and ordered qualities of this scenery, in comparison to that of Constable’s depictions of the area, shows how Corbould has taken elements of the Heath to create an Arcadian landscape that would appeal to an early nineteenth century audience.