The High Force: This Cataract is on the River Tees, which divides the Counties of York and Durham

  • About the work
    Country: Mongolia
    City: Ulaanbaatar
    Place: British Embassy

    Two figures can be seen fishing in the pool beneath the impressive High Force waterfall in County Durham. High above them and to the right, a couple pause to admire the view. Thick cloud is filling the sky overhead, adding to the viewer’s awareness of the great power of nature.

    This is one of a series of landscape views of impressive natural features, which were painted by Thomas Smith of Derby, engraved by James Mason and published in December 1751. The series also included views titled ‘Thorp Cloud & C., The Pyramidal Mountain in Derbyshire’; ‘Matlock High-Tor’; and ‘Gordal at Malham in Craven, Yorkshire’.

    This print was later used as one of the plates to Charles Burlington's ‘Modern Universal British Traveller, or a new complete and accurate tour through England, Wales, Scotland’, published in 1779.

    High Force, a waterfall on the River Tees, near Middleton-in-Teesdale in County Durham, is 71 feet (21.5 metres) high. It has been the subject of works by numerous artists, including J. M. W. Turner, who visited the waterfall and made sketches on 3 August 1816.

  • About the artist
    Nothing is known about the early life of the landscape engraver James Mason. He is first mentioned by engraver and antiquary George Vertue, working for the publisher Arthur Pond in 1744, when he was probably in his early twenties. Mason later established himself as a popular engraver, co-publishing some of his own works. He produced several engravings after paintings by landscape and scene painter George Lambert, the majority of which are dated between 1745 and 1761. Mason engraved considerably less after 1780. He died in 1805 at his home in Winchester Row, Paddington, and was buried nearby at St Mary’s Church. He referred to himself as engraver and shopkeeper in his will, which suggests that he also ran a print shop.
    Thomas Smith of Derby was a topographical and picturesque landscape painter who lived in Bridgegate, Derby. He exhibited at the Society of Artists and the Free Society of Artists from 1760 to 1767. Several examples of his work include groups of elegant tourists admiring views of country estates. He took his art sufficiently seriously to name both his sons after great painters, calling them Thomas Correggio Smith and John Raphael Smith (who continued the tradition by naming his son John Rubens Smith). Both of his sons naturally became artists, as did his daughter, Emma. Smith died on 5 September 1767 in Hotwells, a district of Bristol.
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  • Details
    The High Force: This Cataract is on the River Tees, which divides the Counties of York and Durham
    published December 1751
    Coloured engraving
    Purchased from Parker Gallery, September 1973
    GAC number