Holiday was a devotee of the Lake District, to which he paid the first of many visits in 1855 at the age of sixteen. He was at Ullswater with Simeon Soloman in 1859, at Borrowdale in 1860, and at Skelwith, recovering from illness, in 1871. Two years later he stayed in the area for six months while waiting for a house to be built for him in Hampstead. Yet more visits followed, during which he often called on Ruskin at Coniston or Canon Rawnsley, the founder of the National Trust, at Crosthwaite. In 1908 he built himself a house at Hawkeshead as a permanent country retreat.
'I have visited many parts of the world', Holiday wrote in his Reminiscences (1914), 'Italy, Greece, Spain, Egypt, India, America, and have revelled in the marvellous beauties to be found in them, but for concentrated loveliness I know nothing that can quite compare with the lakes and mountains of Westmorland, Cumberland and Lancashire. My wife... conceived the same affection for (this country). Many times have we sojourned there in various parts, and I have been up all the mountains, and now at length we have built ourselves a house in one of the most beautiful spots in the district, and in this house I am now writing this record'.
The art critic A.L. Baldry also noted the hold which the area exercised over Holiday's imagination. 'He was especially fond of wandering up hill and down dale in the Lake District,' he wrote in the catalogue of the memorial exhibition held at Walker's Galleries, London, in 1930. 'Always on these tramps he carried a sketchbook, and he made numberless notes of the wild scenery which fascinated him by its rugged bareness and its architectural dignity of line. He used sometimes to say that he had drawn every mountain in the Lakes from the top of every other mountain, a permissible boast which gives a good idea of the variety and character of his excursions'.
The present watercolour is one of the ten lakeland views by Holiday that were among a large body of material sold by Alfred Holiday, the artist's great-nephew, at Christie's in October 1981. Most of the items were by Holiday himself, but there were also examples of his brother-in-law John Samuel Raven and three close friends: Burne-Jones, Simeon Solomon and Arthur Severn. A caricature by Burne-Jones of the architect William Burgess in bed (lot 42) is now in the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford.
It is worth comparing the present lot with Hawes Water, a fine lakeland watercolour by Holiday, dating from about 1918, in the Victoria and Albert Museum. See Victorian Landscape Watercolours, exh. Yale, Cleveland and Birmingham 1992-3, cat. no. 126, illustrated.