John Wootton (1682–1764)
Although this work is larger and more ambitious, it is nonetheless comparable to Haycart Passing a Ruined Abbey in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art...
This atmospheric landscape is by John Wootton, the foremost artist of topographical scenes and sporting pictures in early eighteenth-century Britain.
Although this work is larger and more ambitious, it is nonetheless comparable to Haycart Passing a Ruined Abbey in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art [B1981.25.699]. Haycart is tentatively dated to c.1745 and likewise explores the movement of a loaded cart. Wootton in the present work, however, reinterprets the composition by introducing boldly-coloured figures into a staggered, panoramic landscape.
Wootton is thought to have commenced his career as a page to Anne Somerset, daughter of the Henry Somerset, 1st Duke of Beaufort, and later Countess of Coventry. The pair remained close friends and Wootton even asked Anne to be the godmother of his children. The Beauforts were extensive patrons of the artist Jan Wyck and were presumably responsible for Wootton’s training with the artist from the late 1690s until Wyck’s death in 1700, and for his extensive network of patrons. Wootton’s career was firmly established by the second decade of the eighteenth century by producing life-sized portraits of horses for the dukes of Rutland and Devonshire. The 2nd Earl of Oxford, Edward Harley, became his most frequent patron from 1714, followed by Royal patrons George II and his son Frederick, Prince of Wales, Sir Robert Walpole and the dukes of Devonshire, Newcastle and Bedford, to name a few.
Although literature from 1900 suggests Wootton studied in Rome, there is no mention of this in the extensive writings of George Vertue, whose notebooks provide an invaluable, and often detailed glimpse into the lives of many great eighteenth century British artists. Throughout his career, and due to his increasing versatility, Wootton was able to continuously satisfy his patrons by painting views of their extended, refurbished or recently-acquired estates and documenting their thoroughbred horses; this enabled him to command the ‘greatest price of any man in England’.
Wootton was highly influenced by Dutch landscape artists working in England from the late seventeenth century and draws inspiration from the Roman school of artists including Gaspard Dughet, Claude Lorraine and Nicolas Poussin, whose work were accessible to Wootton in the Beaufort and Coventry collections.
Wootton’s success remained unchallenged for forty years and paved the way for landscapists Richard Wilson - often considered the greatest British landscape painter of all time - and Thomas Gainsborough, as well as later more expressive landscape painters such as John Constable and J.M.W Turner. Both Wootton, in the latter half of his career, and Gainsborough increasingly looked to Dutch realism for inspiration - attributes of which can certainly be seen in the present painting. Wootton’s career ended four years before his death and he was buried on the 3rd November 1764 at St Marylebone parish church.
 A. Meyer, John Wootton 1682-1764 Landscapes and sporting art in early Georgian England (London, 1984), p.10
 Letter of Robert Price to Lord Harrington, 19th December 1741. Cited in A. Meyer (London 1984), p.7
 A. Meyer, (London, 1984), p.15.
 A. Meyer, (London, 1984), p.9