The location of the view in this painting was recently identified as Castle Crag, near Keswick, in Cumbria. This glacial valley is located within the northern part of the Lake District National Park. Lake District views were a popular subject with 18th- and 19th-century landscape painters such as George Barret (c.1732-1784), Julius Caesar Ibbetson (1759-1817) and James Baker Pyne (1800-1870).
William Havell produced several works depicting this particular part of the Lake District. A similar view to this scene by the artist, now in a private collection, is painted in warmer colours and includes cows and a man with a dog. In addition, Havell’s painting of ‘Fern Burners and the Castle Crag, near Keswick’ was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1854 and he also exhibited ‘Castle Crag, near Keswick’ (possibly this work) at the British Institution in 1853. The exhibition catalogue included the following lines from a poem by John Milton, selected by the artist to accompany the work:
‘The sun resplendent at his noontide height
Shines forth, and sows the fields with dazzling light.’
Born in Reading, William Havell was a member of a large artistic family, primarily of printers. He made his first sketching tours to Wales and the Wye Valley in 1802 and 1803. In 1805, he became a founder member of the Old Watercolour Society. In 1816, Havell sailed for China with Lord Amherst’s Embassy, visiting Madeira, Rio de Janeiro, the Cape and Java. He later travelled to Calcutta and stayed in India for eight years, working as a watercolour portrait painter. He returned to England in 1827 but in the following year left for Italy, where he remained until the spring of 1829. After again returning to England, he painted landscapes in oil. Havell’s best landscapes are of his native Reading and the Thames valley.
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