Snowdon after an April Hailstorm by Alfred William Hunt (1830-96). Watercolour. 13 x 19.75 inches; monogrammed; titled verso. Exhibited: : Possibly Royal Academy, 1857; Ashmolean Museum, 2005 [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Commentary by the Maas Gallery

In 1856 and 1857, Hunt worked upon several atmospheric landscapes in Snowdonia, including two of Cwm Trifaen showing the peak of Glyder Fach. It was probably Ruskin’s observations of meteorological phenomena published in Modern Painters in April 1856 that reawakened in Hunt a desire to capture the wilderness of the Welsh mountains. This had initially been inspired by Hunt’s time at the Liverpool Collegiate School, where the principal was the noted geologist and Bible scholar, Reverend William Conybeare. In September 1857 Hunt wrote from Snowdonia: ‘I am in the land of damp – of fog and mist... We have had nothing but rain for the last fortnight... I’ve composed my epitaph – to be graven on the biggest stone of the biggest moraine there – We’ve survived “hanging” only to come to this’. This watercolour shows the precipitous west flank of Snowdon, with the long ridge called Crib y Ddysgl running up to it. Hunt’s vantage point was presumably somewhere on the col which forms the north-west edge of Cwm Glogwyn and over the steep edge of which flows a stream known as the Afon Goch. The view is the classic one, towards the southeast, although Hunt had climbed to a higher altitude and had reached a more forbidding painting environment than many of his predecessors. Dense storm clouds are seen to the south, while light breaks through in the eastern sky.

This picture was probably amongst those Hunt showed at the Royal Academy in 1857. Ruskin described Hunt’s meteorological effects in his Academy Notes of that year, considering one picture ‘a very remarkable drawing, and the best study of sky that I can find this year’, that was ‘notable especially for its expression of the consumption of the clouds - not their driving away, but melting away in the warmer air’. Thanks to Christopher Newall.

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Created 10 February 2015