Matlock Bath, Derbyshire, England
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William Day (1764-1807) was an accomplished amateur artist, who exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1782 and 1801 as an Honorary Exhibitor. The brief facts about Day and his work were assembled by the late Judy Egerton in an article in Connoisseur magazine in July 1970, pp. 176-185, which remains the main source of information on his life. It is not known for certain when Day met John Webber, the Swiss-born artist, who adopted an English spelling of his surname, and is now chiefly famous for accompanying Captain Cook on his last expedition to the South Seas between 1776 and 1780.
The Connoisseur article notes, without giving a source, that their friendship “began about 1787”. Certainly, Day and Webber were sketching together in the Wye valley in 1788, which is the first time that pairs of views by the two artists of the same subject are known to exist. Two watercolours by Webber of Chepstow Castle dated 1788, which are now in the Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester (D.1900.12 & D.1970.77) (see Charles Nugent, British Watercolours in the Whitworth Art Gallery, 2003, p. 282) correspond to two watercolours by Day which were acquired by Chepstow Museum in 2012.
In 1789, Day and Webber again travelled together and made a tour of Derbyshire. Their exact route is not known but surviving drawings indicate that they visited all the main spots, including Matlock, Cromford, Dovedale and Castleton. The tour is described, and a number of drawings from it illustrated, in the 1996 Berne and Manchester Webber exhibition catalogue (see W. Hauptman, Captain Cook’s Painter: John Webber 1751-1793 Pacific Voyager and Landscape Artist, 1996, pp. 193-214). Several other pairs of Day and Webber drawings have been identified, from this tour, some quite recently. This watercolour is one such recent identification.