View on the River Seine Morning (about 1825) by Richard Parkes Bonington (1802-1828), one of the most significant artists of the early 19th century and a contemporary of Joseph Mallord William Turner and John Constable, has been allocated to the National Gallery
under the Acceptance in Lieu scheme, administered by Arts Council England.
The work of Bonington is vital to our understanding of French and British art of the Romantic period. He was a keen traveller and spent much of his time on sketching tours, which resulted in many light-filled representations of northern France and Venice, painted in both watercolour and oil. Bonington died tragically young from tuberculosis at the age of 25.
View on the River Seine Morning may be an imaginary composition rather than a plein-air study. In 1825-6 the artist made a number of these compositions in which he arranged trees, rivers and buildings in different combinations inspired by his observation of landscapes in France, as well as by the work of Turner. The more substantial manner in which the boats are painted makes a marked contrast with the ethereal representation of the groups of trees, particularly those in the centre, the whole tied together by the reflections on the still water. The tall mast on the right adds a contrasting vertical accent and signals the luminosity of the sky, a notable aspect of Boningtons achievements as a painter.
This is only the second painting by Bonington to enter the Gallerys collection, the first being La Ferté, about 18245, which was allocated to the Gallery under the Acceptance in Lieu scheme in 2012.
The acquisition of View on the River Seine Morning allows us to highlight the close relationship between British and French paintings of this period, making interesting parallels with paintings already in the collection. In its representation of a tree-lined river and the small red-clothed figure on the right, the painting can be connected to the work of Constable, in particular National Gallery works such as Stratford Mill (1820), The Cornfield (1826), and The Hay Wain (1821), which won the artist a gold medal at the 1824 Paris Salon (on the same occasion Bonington too won a gold medal). It also has a relationship with Constables looser, plein-air paintings in the Gallerys collection, such as Weymouth Bay: Bowleaze Cove and Jordon Hill (1816-7).
National Gallery Director, Dr Gabriele Finaldi said Bonington is an important and rare artist and this evocative and atmospheric view of the River Seine is a superb example of his work. We are grateful to HM Government, the Arts Council England, and the Acceptance in Lieu Panel for enabling it to join the National Gallery's collection for all to enjoy.
Edward Harley, Chair of the Acceptance in Lieu Panel, said This beautiful, small landscape painting, executed in the brief period of Boningtons artistic maturity before his death at 25, demonstrates his mastery at evoking the subtle transition from foreground to distance through light and atmosphere. I am thrilled that the Acceptance in Lieu scheme has enabled this work to be acquired on behalf of the public for display at the National Gallery.
View on the River Seine Morning can now be seen in Gallery F hanging alongside other landscape oil sketches by artists such as Corot, Degas, Denis, Huet, Lord Leighton, Rousseau and Watts.