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George III, King of the United Kingdom (1738-1820)

Syon House c.1758-60

Black and white chalks on blue paper | 41.1 x 54.4 cm (sheet of paper) | RCIN 980237

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  • A chalk drawing showing a view of Syon House. Trees are shown in the foreground, with a lake behind. Figures are shown at the edge of the lake and a sailing boat is shown on the water. The house is shown in the background, on the opposite bank.

    This is one of a series of forty-five loose drawings, in black and white chalk on blue-grey paper, originally housed between the stiff blue card leaves of a volume labelled ‘Landscapes drawn by H.M.’ The drawings are mostly landscape compositions, containing architectural elements in the foreground. The fact that the architecture is drawn with the help of a ruler would appear to link these drawings with the young King’s lessons in perspectival drawing. Joshua Kirby was the Prince’s teacher of perspective drawing from 1756 but his lessons are likely to have ceased by 1765 when he is described - in the past tense - as having ‘taught H.M. to draw’.

    This drawing is remarkable amongst George III’s early chalk drawings as it depicts a real, rather than invented, view. In the centre of the composition, beyond the river Thames, is Syon House – the residence of the Duke of Northumberland – as seen from the royal gardens at Richmond across the river. Others in the series feature classical buildings derived from engraved sources - in the present drawing the temple of Baal Shamin (of c.130 AD) at Palmyra, as recorded in plate XXXI of Robert Wood’s Ruins of Palmyra (1753); in other drawings classical remains included in publications such as Le Roy’s Monuments de la Grèce (1758). The recognisably English riverscape in this view was presumably the idea of the young George III.

    The competent handling of black and white chalk throughout this series may also have resulted from lessons with Kirby. The landscapes exhibited by Kirby at the Society of Artists in 1767 and 1769 were said by Horace Walpole to have been painted by George III. Kirby’s offical role at this time was Clerk of the Works at Richmond and Kew.

    Catalogue entry adapted from George III & Queen Charlotte: Patronage, Collecting and Court Taste, London, 2004
  • Medium and techniques

    Black and white chalks on blue paper


    41.1 x 54.4 cm (sheet of paper)

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