Richard Wilson (British, 1712/13–1782)
Black and white chalks with stumping, on gray paper laid down on original artist's mount, colored with purple wash
28 3/8 x 42 3/8 in. (72.1 x 107.7 cm) (sheet)
Bequest of Walter C. Baker, 1971 (1972.118.294)
In 1750, Richard Wilson traveled to Italy, where he hoped to advance his career by winning portrait commissions from young British aristocrats making the Grand Tour, and to widen his knowledge of art by studying ancient works of sculpture and architecture. Instead, he would achieve success during his seven-year sojourn in Italy by painting views of that country's distinctive landscape. He made this drawing in 1754 for William Legge, second earl of Dartmouth (17311801), as part of a large group of drawings depicting views in Rome.
Wilson appears to have painted his landscapes primarily in the studio, incorporating studies made on the spot (in oils, graphite, or chalks) with conventional motifs and methods of composition inspired by Claude Lorrain. Here, Wilson frames a prospect terminating in Michelangelo's great dome of St. Peter's with picturesque trees and travelers, and juxtaposes the precisely described architecture with softly rendered clouds.