search

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
John Surtees (1817-1915)
John Surtees (1817-1915)

The swan's lake, Kew Gardens

Details
John Surtees (1817-1915)
The swan's lake, Kew Gardens
signed 'John Surtees' (lower left) and further signed 'John Surtees' (on the reverse) and inscribed and signed 'The Swan's Lake in Kew Gardens John Surtees' (on the artists label, on the reverse)
oil on canvas
24 x 42½ in. (61 x 107.9 cm.)

Condition Report

If you wish to view the condition report of this lot, please sign in to your account.

Sign in
View condition report

Lot Essay

The lake at Kew Gardens has changed considerably since it was established in the 1740s, at the request of Frederick, Prince of Wales. In 1763 it dominated 9 acres of the gardens, of which a third was an island, accessible by a Palladian bridge (which would last until 1785). In the 1790s, George III decided that the gardens needed more land, which saw much of the lake being filled in. However, in the 1840s the present lake was created by Sir William Hooker, partly in response to cries that the lake had been reduced to a 'pond'. Clusters of trees - of which some remain to this very day - were incorporated into the plans, which determined the shape of the south shore. Hooker's son, Joseph, continued his father's work, and planted more trees around the edges of the lake.

The woodlands growth continued towards the end of the 19th Century, when Sir William Thiselton-Dyer, Director of the Gardens, proclaimed that the islands "should be heavily wooded with well-disposed clumps of trees. These give effects of light and shadow on the water which are often in striking contrast". It is these effects of light and shadow that Surtees has so sensitively captured in the present lot. Late summer light dances off the tranquil waters, which - from the mist beyond - appear to be depicted in the early morning. The subtle gold imbued in the leaves insinuates the coming of autumn, while the swans, regal, and with majestic calm, glide across the lake, oblivious to the changing of the seasons.

Kew Lake's association with swans - drawn upon by Surtees in the present lot - is part of a long tradition. In 1755, in celebration of the 17th birthday of George III (at that point Prince of Wales), a Swan Boat was constructed and designed by John Rich, the manager of Covent Garden. Of impressive size, the neck and head were 18 feet high, and the vessel could bear 10 passengers. To this day, the lakes and islands are an important conservation area that has allowed generations of swans to thrive. Of credit to the gardens management, both past and present, it is highly plausible that the some of the swans flourishing in the lake to this very day are direct descendants of the pair depicted in the present lot.

More from The London Sale

View All
View All