An Italianate villa is seen at the edge of a lake within an idealised rocky landscape in John Wootton’s classical composition. The three figures, including a shepherd herding sheep to the lower right and two men conversing, are subordinate elements, which may have been added by a pupil in Wootton’s studio.
Wootton produced romanticised, classical landscapes like this example for several English country houses. Such landscapes were once thought to have all been painted late in his career, after the artist’s visit to Rome, which was funded by the third Duke of Beaufort. However, recent evidence suggests that he was painting classical landscapes before ever having travelled abroad, perhaps inspired by the paintings of French landscape painter Gaspar Poussin (1615-1675).
John Wootton was born in Warwickshire. He was probably a page to Anne Somerset (later Countess of Coventry), daughter of the first duke of Beaufort. In the 1690s he studied painting under Jan Wyck. Wootton moved to London in 1706, where he made his reputation as a painter of horses at Newmarket. As well as sporting subjects, he produced decorative landscapes, including examples at Althorp, Northamptonshire, and Longleat House, Wiltshire. His most generous patron was Edward Harley, second Earl of Oxford. Wootton retired in c.1760, finding his work overshadowed by Richard Wilson, Thomas Gainsborough and George Stubbs. He married twice and had two surviving children. He died at about the age of 82 and is buried at Marylebone Parish Church.
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