Bonington’s early preference for marine views was never entirely abandoned, and this landscape is atypical in its landlocked subject, and is also unusual in being a sketch laid in before the motif with broad ribbons and daubs of color. While the English-born Bonington was trained in France, the impetus for painting out of doors seems to have come from Constable, whose work he first saw at the Paris Salon of 1824 and came to know better while visiting London and its environs the following summer. In the present study, which may date to the late summer or autumn of 1825, the view is as found, rather than as composed, and is thus more in accordance with English than with French practice. Noon (2003) has pointed out that from this time on, Bonington chose the particular type of commercially available millboard used here for sketching in plein air.
In the catalogue of the artist’s 1834 estate sale, the picture is described as Rouen from the opposite side of the Seine, "with blocks of stone under some trees on the quay." Without this explanation, it would not have been easy to know exactly what is represented. Large blocks of dressed stone are lying about as if abandoned during a pause in, or at the end of, a construction project, perhaps the bridge in the background. Rouen has shrunk to the size of a village and its topography is difficult to read, even though Bonington could be, when he wished, a superbly precise architectural draftsman. The figures by the river and the barrow or cart behind them are evidently part of the original design, while the man and woman crouching over a stone are painted on top of the ground and were perhaps added later. The fine, sharply angled branches of the trees and the thinly painted foliage, in which the brush has been lightly dragged over the surface, are closely paralleled in A Wooded Lane (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven), of the same date. Cormack suggested the influence of Constable in the New Haven work, while Noon proposed that of Paul Huet. Despite the fact that the MMA sketch is listed in Bonington’s estate sale, Miquel (1965) attributed it to Huet. However, in its originality, immediacy, and lightness and variety of touch, it is far beyond that artist’s capacity. View near Rouen has changed hands only once, is splendidly preserved, and retains its original frame.
[2012; adapted from Baetjer 2009]
the artist (until d. 1828; his estate, 1828–34; his estate sale, Christie's, London, May 24, 1834, no. 139, as "View of Rouen from the opposite side of the river, with blocks of stone under some trees on the quay," for £10.10.0 to Normanton); Welbore Ellis Agar, 2nd Earl of Normanton, Somerley, Ringwood, Hampshire (1834–d. 1868); Earls of Normanton, Somerley (1868–1967; cat., 1884, no. 66; inv., 1948, no. 96, as "A View among trees on the River at Rouen"); Shaun James Christian Welbore Ellis Agar, 6th Earl of Normanton, Somerley (1967–2001; sold through Sayn-Wittgenstein Fine Art, New York, to MMA)
London. Cosmorama Rooms, 209 Regent Street. "Paintings, Drawings and Sketches of the Late R. P. Bonington," 1834, no. 33 [see Noon 2008].
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," January–March 1884, no. 7 (as "View near Rouen," 21 by 33 in. [sic], lent by the Earl of Normanton).
King's Lynn. Guildhall of St. George. "Bonington," July 22–August 5, 1961, no. 17 (as "Near Rouen," lent by The Earl of Normanton).
London. Agnew. "R. P. Bonington," February 26–March 17, 1962, no. 15 (as "Near Rouen," lent by The Earl of Normanton).
Nottingham. Castle Museum and Art Gallery. "R. P. Bonington, 1802–1828," April 10–May 25, 1965, no. 259 (as "Near Rouen," lent by the Earl of Normanton).
Norwich. Castle Museum. "R. P. Bonington, 1802–1828," May 29–June 19, 1965, no. 259.
Southampton, England. Southampton Art Gallery. "R. P. Bonington, 1802–1828," June 26–July 17, 1965, no. 259.
New Haven. Yale Center for British Art. "Richard Parkes Bonington: 'On the Pleasure of Painting'," November 13, 1991–January 19, 1992, no. 55 (as "Near Rouen," lent by a private collection).
Paris. Petit Palais. "Richard Parkes Bonington: 'Du plaisir de peindre'," March 5–May 17, 1992, no. 55.
London. Tate Britain. "Crossing the Channel: British and French Painting in the Age of Romanticism," February 5–May 11, 2003, no. 110.
Minneapolis Institute of Arts. "Crossing the Channel: British and French Painting in the Age of Romanticism," June 8–September 7, 2003, no. 110.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Crossing the Channel: British and French Painting in the Age of Romanticism," October 7, 2003–January 4, 2004, no. 110.
[Gustav Friedrich] Waagen. Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain. London, 1857, p. 369, as "Bonnington—A flat country, with a piece of water with cows standing. Of very picturesque charm, warmly lighted, and of clear and powerful colouring".
A. Dubuisson. Richard Parkes Bonington: His Life and Work. London, 1924, p. 177, lists it as no. 139 in the artist's estate sale.
Andrew Shirley. Bonington. London, 1940, p. 132, as no. 139 in the1834 sale.
Christie's. Inventory of the Pictures, Drawings and Prints [of] The Rt. Hon. the Earl of Normanton, Somerley, Ringwood, Hants. 1948, p. 12, no. 96, as "A View among trees on the River at Rouen," no. 66 in the 1884 catalogue.
Marion Spencer. R. P. Bonington: 1802–1828. Exh. cat., Castle Museum and Art Gallery. Nottingham, 1965, p. 35, no. 259, pl. 27.
Pierre Miquel. Paul Huet (1803–1869). Exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen. 1965, p. 11, attributes it to Huet.
Patrick Noon. Richard Parkes Bonington: 'On the Pleasure of Painting'. Exh. cat., Yale Center for British Art, Yale University. New Haven, 1991, p. 157, no. 55, ill. (color) [French ed., Richard Parkes Bonington: "Du plaisir de peindre," Paris, 1992, p. 157, no. 55, ill. (color)], as "Near Rouen," about 1825; asserts that it is "unquestionably" by Bonington although its composition is of a type particularly favored by Huet; comments that Bonington and Huet were working side by side in 1825; describes it as "less restrained in execution than might be expected from Bonington; however, it exhibits a disciplined touch and a precision of observation beyond Huet's interests or capacities".
Gary Tinterow in "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 2000–2001." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 59 (Fall 2001), pp. 5, 35, ill. (color), as "View near Rouen," observes that it was painted outdoors, from an island in the midst of the Seine, probably in summer 1825.
Patrick Noon in Patrick Noon. Crossing the Channel: British and French Painting in the Age of Romanticism. Exh. cat., Tate Britain. London, 2003, p. 200, no. 110, ill. (color), as a sketch with Rouen in the distance painted in autumn 1825, "en plein air," on commercially prepared millboard.
Patrick Noon. Richard Parkes Bonington: The Complete Paintings. New Haven, 2008, pp. 38, 238–39, no. 194, ill. (color), dates it about 1825 and places it among the artist's earliest plein-air oil sketches; states that it was probably painted in the fall of 1825, in the company of Paul Huet, and that its composition bears strong affinities with the latter's forest interiors.
Katharine Baetjer. British Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575–1875. New York, 2009, pp. 264–66, no. 127, ill. (color).
Asher Ethan Miller in Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art [The Met Breuer]. New York, 2016, p. 278, colorpl. 100, notes that it was among the artist's works left in his Paris studio at his death and that it was shipped to London, where it appeared in his second estate sale of 1834.