View of Bidston, 1872-73, by William Davis (1812-1873). Oil on canvas, 30.5 x 46 cm (12 x 18 1/8 inches). Inscribed v left: "This is my father's last sketch. Val Davis." Provenance: bought as Lot 870, Bonham's, 7th August 2012. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Commentary by Paul Crowther

This study reveals the broader—almost impressionist—effects of Davis's final stylistic phase. It also displays, quite emphatically, something of his willingness to compress and de-stabilize the perspectival structure of recessional space—a feature that brought some criticism from his contemporaries. However, as Allen Staley observes "In Davis's case, as in Rossetti's and Courbet's, the inability to master perspective seems less a weakness than a reflection of other interests. What need did a landscape painter who turned his back on traditional views have of traditional, illusionistic, three-dimensional space? Davis's lack of technical mastery in creating space went hand-in-hand with the abandonment of space-creating compositional devices that was a central element of the Pre-Raphaelite creed…" (193).

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Crowther, Paul. Awakening Beauty: The Crowther-Oblak Collection of Victorian Art. Exhibition catalogue. Ljubljana: National Gallery of Slovenia; Galway: Moore Institute, National University of Ireland, 2014. No. 27.

Staley, Allen. The Pre-Raphaelite Landscape. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2001.

Last modified 8 December 2014