The Falls of Clyde watercolour

The Falls of Clyde, a watercolour thought to be by John Ward, $18,000 (£14,400) at Tremont Auctions.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

It is thought to be one of a series of sketches the English artist James Ward (1769-1859) produced of the Falls of Clyde in Lanarkshire in 1811.

The 14 x 101/2in (35 x 26cm) image worked in shades of green and grey with white highlights, came for sale as part of an eclectic single-owner collection sold by Tremont Auctions in Sudbury, Massachusetts on May 5.

Two internet bidders, who had spotted a faint pencil title to the reverse and deciphered the artist’s monogram, competed it via the US platform LiveAuctioneers.

Artist's monogram

A detail of the monogram and RA inscription to the watercolour at Tremont Auctions.

Famous falls

The Falls of Clyde is the collective name of three linn (waterfalls) – Bonnington Linn, Corra Linn, and Dundaff Linn – on the upper Clyde near Lanark. The natural wonder was an attraction for tourists from the 18th century and celebrated by British Romantic artists and writers as epitomising the awe-inspiring qualities of the fashionable and patriotic ‘Sublime’ landscape.

Turner first sketched there in the summer of 1801 and William Wordsworth immortalised Corra Linn, the largest of the waterfalls, in verse in 1802.

This watercolour is probably one of the many studies Ward made during a visit to the falls in 1811. The addition of the initials RA after the artist’s monogram are significant: Ward was only admitted to full membership of the Royal Academy of Arts during that year.

The Lanarkshire studies were the prelude to a picture considered his masterpiece, the monumental oil of a bull from the Chillingham herd dwarfed by the limestone cliffs of Gordale Scar in Yorkshire. Commissioned by local landowner Lord Ribblesdale and painted during the last years of the Napoleonic War, it was shown at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1815 and is now at the Tate Gallery.

Late in his career Ward also produced two finished oils of the Falls of Clyde based on his earlier sketches. Both The Hunted Stag Caught by the Rapids above the Falls of the Clyde (an episode the artist witnessed in 1811) and The Falls of the Clyde After a Flood were displayed at the Royal Academy in 1852, the artist’s last ever RA exhibition.

The Falls of the Clyde After a Flood, measuring 4ft 2in x 3ft 3in (1.25m x 99cm) was sold twice at Sotheby’s in recent memory: for £55,000 in 2000 and then for £24,000 as part of the sale of pictures from London dealership The Fine Art Society in 2019.