Ashford was one of the leading landscape painters working in Ireland in the late eighteenth century. Born in Birmingham in 1746, he travelled to Ireland in 1764 to take up a position in the Dublin Ordnance Office, as Clerk to the Comptroller of the Laboratory section. He spent the next twenty years travelling throughout Ireland inspecting armaments stored at various barracks and forts. This exposure to the Irish countryside both inspired and prepared him for his subsequent career move to landscape artist. Ashford's earliest works were still lives of flowers, fruit and dead game, which he exhibited at the Dublin Society of Arts from 1767, however he soon turned to landscapes, winning second prize at the Dublin Society for his first exhibited landscapes in 1772 and securing first prize the following year. He also exhibited Irish landscapes at the Royal Academy in London in 1775, showing a total of twenty-five works between 1775 and 1811. Ashford left the Dublin Ordnance Office in 1788 to focus on his painting career and spent time in London and North Wales, before settling in Sandymount, near Dublin in 1791. He exhibited regularly in Dublin between 1800 and 1821 and was elected President of the Irish Society of Artists in 1813. He played a leading role in the foundation of the Royal Hibernian Academy and was nominated its first President in 1823. In addition, he continued to exhibit Irish landscapes at the Royal Academy and British Institution in London. Among his most important patrons were Richard, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam (1745-1816), for whom he painted views of Mount Merrion Park; Charles Bury, 1st Earl of Charleville (1764-1835); Charles Moore, 1st Marquis of Drogheda (1730-1822); William, 2nd Duke of Leinster (1749-1804); and Bernard Ward, 1st Viscount Bangor (1719-81). Ashford painted all over Ireland, including views of Shane's Castle, Co. Antrim; Castleward, Co. Down; Kilkea, Belan and Moore Abbey in Co. Kildare; Muckross Abbey in Co. Kerry. It has been suggested that the present composition may show the Upper Lake, Killarney, of which Ashford exhibited several views at the Society of Artists in London in the late 1770s.
We are grateful to Anne Crookshank for confirming the attribution to Ashford, having examined the picture at first hand.