Distress by Land (from James Thomson's poem, 'The Seasons' (1726-31)

Henry Thomson RA (London 1773 – Portsea 1843)
National Trust Inventory Number 732137

Category Paintings
Date circa 1804 - 1811 (exhibited at Royal Academy)
Materials Oil on canvas
Measurements 2375 x 1454 mm ( 93 1/2 x 57 1/4 in)
Place of origin
Collection Stourhead, Wiltshire (Accredited Museum)
On show at Stourhead, Wiltshire, South West, National Trust

This is a bleak scene of a young peasant girl in a bonnet protecting a child in her arms in a storm upon Salisbury Plain whilst another small boy shelters beneath her dramatically windswept cloak. The inclusion of Stonehenge, a local landmark to Stourhead in Wiltshire was in deference to Richard Colt Hoare’ s archaeological interests. It is inspired by lines from ‘Winter’ (1726), written shortly after the death of his mother from the first part of the poem, The Seasons (1730) by the Scottish playwright and poet, James Thomson (1770-1748) and adapted on the frame label:

"...How sinks her Soul!

What black Despair! What horror fills her heart!

Far from the tract, and blest abode of man;

While round her night resistless closes fast,

And every tempest, howling o'er her head,

Renders the savage wilderness more wild"

The romantically ‘Gothic’ picture was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1811.

Summary description

Oil painting on canvas, Distress by Land by Henry Thomson RA (London 1773 -Portsea 1843), circa 1804. Exhibited at the Royal Academy 1811. A storm on Salisbury Plain, with Stonehenge in the background at the right. A girl in a cloak and bonnet protects a child in her arms; a small boy shelters beneath her windswept cloak. The scene illustrates James Thomson's The Seasons (1730), with Stonehenge included as a local landmark to Stourhead House, Wiltshire.

Provenance

Acquired by Sir Richard Colt Hoare, 2nd Bt (1758 – 1838); given to the National Trust along with the house, its grounds, and the rest of the contents by Sir Henry Hugh Arthur Hoare, 6th Bt (1865 – 1947) in 1946

Credit line

Stourhead, The Hoare Collection (National Trust)

Marks and inscriptions

Recto, on tablet on frame: Lines from James Thomson's Seasons: "...How sinks her Soul! What black Despair! What horror fills her heart! Far from the tract, and blest abode of man; While round her night resistless closes fast, And every tempest, howling o'er her head, Renders the savage wilderness more wild"

Makers and roles

Henry Thomson RA (London 1773 – Portsea 1843)

Related items

Place of origin
Materials Canvas (10022)
Paint (29647)
Category Paintings (12625)
Collection Stourhead, Wiltshire (Accredited Museum) (7268)
Periods 18th century (85301)
19th century (166434)
Maker Henry Thomson RA (London 1773 – Portsea 1843) (10)
Subjects Literature (111)
Thomson (19)
Object Type Oil painting (11819)

Record Status

Enhanced

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