JOHN WILSON CARMICHAEL
"View over Lake Nemi, Italy" (1865)
Oil on canvas | Signed lower right "1865 J. W. Carmichael"
Item # 111LUJ11F
The present work is an interesting scene for a number of reasons, including importantly its time of execution in 1865. It was during a period of his retirement to Scarsborough following time spent in Italy, sketching the major lakes and landscapes in the northern part of the country. Likely executed in his studio using the preparatory sketches made of the area during these travels, the scene captures an idyllic view of Lake Nemi during sunset. It is rich in fall colors as light cascades through the haze of clouds and strikes the turning leaves of the trees, casting long shadows along the meadow grasses. The blue waters of Lake Nemi are cool and reflect the landscape bordering the shore. The focal point of the scene is a family of three that is taking the day to hike the local countryside, breaking along a rock to enjoy the lovely views.
The work is signed and dated 1865 in the lower right corner and the original frame retains a label on it from John Hay & Son, an art dealer, framer and gilder in John Wilson Carmichael's hometown of Newcastle upon Tyne. An exquisite scene that has been carefully restored and is a very fine presentation.
Born on June 9th of 1800 to ship carpenter William Carmichael in Newcastle, England, John Wilson Carmichael [sometimes referenced as James Wilson Carmichael] apprenticed for three years on a ship traveling a route through Spain and Portugal. He returned from his apprenticeship as a carpenter, but after devoting his spare hours to painting he eventually was able to leave carpentry to practice his art professionally. He set up his studio in the early 1820s, exhibiting for his debut in 1825 at the Northumberland Institution for the Promotion of Fine Arts. He married the following year and despite moving to Tyneside he would continue to send paintings to exhibit in Newcastle throughout the years. In 1829 he sent work for exhibit at the Northern Academy and in 1834 he exhibited at the Liverpool Academy. He began a long period of exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1835, continuing to show twenty-one paintings there through 1859. He expanded to exhibiting at Suffolk Street galleries in 1838 where he would send six paintings. Around 1845 he moved to London and began exhibiting at the British Institute the following year in 1846; he would send a total of twenty-one paintings for exhibition there over his career.
His love of the sea featured prominently in his work and his passion for the architectural aspects of ships is self-evident. He also produced a variety of landscapes outside of the marine genre, working with architect John Dobson to produce paintings of an imagined redesign of the center of Newcastle. These included street scenes and designs for both Grainger Market and the Central Station. In May of 1855 he went to sea again appointed as an official war artist during the Crimean War. He served in the Baltic where he executed a number of studies, many of which were engraved and published in The Illustrated London News. He completed his painting of Bombardment of Sveaborg, an event he personally experienced while on his assignment; this work was exhibited at the Royal Academy and was later acquired for the National Maritime Museum's permanent collection.
Around 1857 he spent time traveling throughout Switzerland and Italy; during this period he painted a great many landscape scenes that departed from his more typical marine sketches. Tragedy would strike in 1862 when he and his wife received news of the death of his eldest son and he retired shortly thereafter to Scarborough. He died there in 1868 at the young age of sixty-eight.
His work is held in museums around the world including the V&A, the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA), the Brighton and Hove Museum, Hartlepool Museums, the Sir Max Aitkin Museum, the York Art Gallery and the Sunderland Museum among others. In 1968 the most comprehensive exhibition of his work was posthumously held in his honor at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle. Infrequently found on the open market, the vast majority of his work achieves well into the mid-to-upper five-figures at auction.
Measurements: 17 1/8" H x 28 1/8" W [canvas]; 25 3/8" H x 36 1/8" W x 3" D [frame]
Relined. Professionally restored by our conservator: surface grime and varnish removed [dark areas of painting did not have their varnish removed as bond between varnish and oil presented some risk]; surface was poorly overpainted at some prior point, this removed chemically and mechanically; a layer of traditional damar varnish applied; losses filled and inpainted [see images under UV for an overview]; final layer of traditional damar varnish applied. Remains on its original stretchers with replaced keys. Some old blistering and craquelure to paint with some thinning of the oil from old overcleaning. Housed in an early period frame, perhaps the first frame for the painting; losses throughout including to the upper right corner cartouche and the egg-and-dart outer molding in a few places; later gilt paint and restorations to the frame in numerous areas (for example the tips of the corners).