The Great Geyser

  • About the work
    Location
    Country: Iceland
    City: Reykjavik
    Place: British Embassy

    In May 1789, encouraged by the naturalist and patron of science Joseph Banks, John Thomas Stanley (later first Baron Stanley of Alderley) set off from Leith, near Edinburgh, on an expedition to Iceland, accompanied by a crew of 26. His intention was to research the island and he returned with a collection of dried plants and numerous sketches drawn by Stanley himself and by other crew members. Edward Dayes and Nicholas Pocock were commissioned to prepare completed drawings from these amateur studies. This is one of two oil paintings in the Government Art Collection by Dayes, depicting geysers in Iceland (see also 'The New Geyser'; GAC 4822). Both are thought to be based on sketches by Stanley.

  • About the artist
    Edward Dayes was born in London and apprenticed to mezzotinter and painter William Pether. He entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1786. During his early career he worked as a miniaturist, later concentrating on the topographical landscapes in watercolour for which he is best-known. Thomas Girtin was a pupil of Dayes’ until an argument between the two seems to have led to Girtin’s imprisonment. Although not a pupil, J. M. W. Turner also studied Dayes’s work and some watercolours by Turner from the 1790s are virtually indistinguishable from those of Dayes. Towards the end of his career, Dayes began working in oils with less success. He was known as a difficult character with a fiery temper and committed suicide in London in 1804.
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  • Details
    Title
    The Great Geyser
    Date
    1790
    Medium
    Oil on canvas
    Dimensions
    height: 96.50 cm, width: 71.00 cm
    Acquisition
    Purchased from Sotheby's via Frank T Sabin, 28 November 1958
    Provenance
    'The Property of a Nobleman'; by whom sold through Christie's, London, 'Pictures by Old Masters' sale, on 28 November 1958 (Lot 97; with GAC 4822); from which sale purchased by Frank T. Sabin on behalf of the Ministry of Works
    GAC number
    4821