Landscape with River and Ruined Castle
About the work
Place: Foreign. Commonwealth & Development Office, Carlton Gardens
A fisherman sits patiently on the bank of a river. On the opposite bank another man reclines, while cows venture into the water to drink. Beyond is an old bridge and, beyond that, a spectacular rural view. The image is framed on either side by rocky hills and trees. To the left, the ruin of a building overlooks the river from the summit of a hill.
It has been suggested that the building depicted in this work represents the ruins of Cowdray Castle in West Sussex. However, Cowdray is not elevated as high above the adjacent River Rother. Gilbert is known to have painted a ‘View of the Ruins of Cowdray’ (now untraced), which was engraved by T. Clark and published sometime between 1793 and 1830. An example of the engraving is in the collection of the British Museum.
In fact, this view is more likely to represent an imaginary, idealised landscape. A painting of 1820 by Gilbert, titled ‘Cattle Watering at a Pool’ (sold through Sotheby’s, London, in 1979), includes a similar ruined building elevated above water where cattle drink.
About the artist
Joseph Francis Gilbert, landscape painter, was the son of ‘an inventor of several ingenious plans for firing bombs’, according to an article in the ‘Art Journal’ of 1855. By 1813 he was living in Portsmouth and had begun exhibiting at the Royal Academy. He later moved to Chichester in Sussex and continued to exhibit his work at the British Institution, the Society of British Artists and the Royal Manchester Institution. Gilbert’s landscape paintings are primarily of locations in Sussex but also include views of Wales and the Lake District. Some are up to six feet in width and several were published as engravings. Gilbert died in Southwark, London, at about the age of 63.
- Landscape with River and Ruined Castle
- 15 July 1825
- Oil on canvas
- height: 80.30 cm, width: 126.20 cm
- Purchased from Frank T Sabin, December 1959
- BR: J.F.Gilbert Chichester / July 15 1825
- GAC number