Art/ Collection/ Art Object

View of the Bay of Naples with Vesuvius, Smoking, in the Distance (Evening)

Alfred William Hunt (British, Liverpool 1830–1896 London)
Watercolor with touches of gouache over graphite
19-1/2 x 29 5/8 in. (49.5 x 75.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Florence B. Selden Bequest, 2000
Accession Number:
Not on view
Inspired by the atmospheric effects of Turner and Whistler, the naturalistic agenda of Ruskin, and the meticulous handling of the Pre-Raphaelites, Alfred William Hunt sought in his own art to unite "nature's true colour together with her all-pervading light." Here, the broad slopes of Vesuvius emerge from mist across the Bay of Naples, distinguished by a single plume of smoke against the glowing twilight sky. Loosely-traced silhouettes of ships punctuate the expansive bay, while a single figure accompanied by a white cat interrupts the richly textured, golden walls of the structure in the foreground.

In 1871 the weekly journal "Athenaeum" singled out this work at the summer exhibition of the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolours, praising the "thunderous-looking twilight, with reflected gleams like flashes from steel on the sea, and in the sky a look which suggests breathless waiting for a tumult—Vesuvius seems in keeping with all this. We look over the terraced roofs of Naples, with lights distinct among them, so that the eye takes in the harbour, moles [piers], lighthouses, and the shore sweeping in grand lines to our left. Apart from its power in rendering the subject, with all its grandeur and sentiment, this work is, technically speaking, a masterpiece of chiaroscuro: it is magnificent in effect, and the sea is very finely painted; it will bear examination throughout, and is, on the whole, the best of Mr. Hunt's watercolour pictures."
Bay of Naples–A Land of Smouldering Fire

Inscription: Inscribed at lower left: "AW Hunt 1871"
Humphrey Roberts (British), (by 1884, his sale 1908); Christie's, London, May 23, 1908, lot 254; Dunthorne (British), (bought at the preceding for 56 gs.); Christie's, London, March 1, 1920, lot 28; Johnson (British), (bought at the preceding); Christie's, London, May 23, 1981, lot 4 (bought by the following); David Fuller(sold at the following); Christie's, London, April 7, 2000, lot 46; Katrin Bellinger Kunsthandel; Vendor: Katrin Bellinger Kunsthandel , Munich
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," August 13, 2001–November 4, 2001.

Yale Center for British Art, Yale University. "Alfred William Hunt," September 15, 2004–December 5, 2004.

Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford University. "Alfred William Hunt," January 26, 2005–April 3, 2005.

"Fine Arts: The Society of Painters in Watercolours (Second Notice)." Athenaeum. London, May 6, 1871, pp. 565-66.

"The Watercolour Exhibitions." The Daily Telelgraph. May 4, 1871, p. 7, "(70) 'A Land of Smouldering Fire', is a curiously effective view of the Bay of Naples by night, by Mr. Alfred W. Hunt.".

Summer Exhibition, 1871. Royal Society of Painters in Watercolour, London, 1871, cat. no. 70.

"The Watercolour Exhibitions." Pall Mall Gazette. May 10, 1871, "In landscape, Mr. A. Hunt...carries off the honours with his very poetical and intense picture from the Bay of Naples (70). This scheme of unmitigated atmospheric purples, with a few crimson touched clouds in the upper sky, was a difficult one; but Mr. Hunt has carried it successfully through, and his picture is full not only of sentiment but of insight, and the grandeur that comes of unclinching thoroughness and, above all, of drawing.", pp.11–12 (12).

Art Treasures Exhibition. Wrexham, 1876, cat. no. 690.

Exhibition of Pictures and Drawings by Alfred W. Hunt. The Fine Art Society, London, London, 1884, cat. no. 30.

Royal Jubilee Exhibition. Exh. cat. Manchester, 1887, cat. no. 1268.

Frederick Wedmore "Alfred Hunt." Magazine of Art. 1891, p. 107.

Exhibition of Drawings in Water colour by Alfred William Hunt. Ex. cat. Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1897, cat. no. 76.

Memorial Exhibition of Pictures by Alfred W. Hunt. Liverpool, 1897, cat. no. 150.

Charles P. Watson International Exhibition Glasgow 1901 : Official Catalogue of the Fine Art Section. Glasgow, 1901, no. 987, p. 70, "A. W. Hunt, "Naples–"A Land of Smouldering Fire." Lent by Humphrey Roberts, Esq.

Exhibition of Works by British Artists deceased since 1850. Exh. cat., Burlington House. Royal Academy of Arts, London, Winter 1901, cat. no. 139.

Andrew Wilton, Anne Lyles The Great Age of British Watercolours. Exh. cat.: 15 January- 12 April, 1993 Royal Academy of Arts; 9 May-July 25, 1993, National Gallery of Art. London and Washington DC, 1993, pl. 326, cat. no. 176.

Andrew Wilton "The Legacy of Turner's Great Watercolours" in ex cat.: Turner: The Great Watercolours; Royal Academy of Arts. London, 2000, fig. 30.

Christopher Newall, Scott Wilcox, Colin Harrison The Poetry of Truth: Alfred William Hunt and the Art of Landscape. Ex. cat., Yale Center for British Art, Sept. 18-Dec. 12, 2004; Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Jan. 26-April 3, 2005. Oxford, 2004, cat. no. 41, pp. 132-33, ill.

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