This intensely worked oil sketch was made by Richard Dadd at the beginning of his career. Dadd appears to have started seriously drawing at the age of thirteen whilst he was a pupil at the King’s School, Rochester and was probably first taught by the only local drawing master, William Dadson, who had a drawing academy in Chatham.
In 1834 Dadd’s family moved to London and settled in Suffolk Street, Pall Mall, a few doors away from the headquarters and exhibition rooms of the Society of British Artists. It was from this location that Dadd’s father, Robert, pursued his new profession as a carver, gilder, frame maker and artists’ supplier. As a result, Robert Dadd became acquainted with the landscape painters David Roberts and Clarkson Stanfield. Richard seems to have informally studied drawing after the antique at the British Museum before being admitted, in May 1837, as a Probationer to the Royal Academy Schools on the recommendation of Clarkson Stanfield. During his time at the Schools the Visiting Professors included Maclise, Mulready, Etty, Stanfield who all appear to have had some influence on his work. His fellow students also included John Phillip and William Powell Frith and it was about this time that the three formed an informal sketching club, The Clique, which also included Augustus Egg, Alfred Elmore, William Bell Scott and Henry Nelson O’Neil.
This atmospheric landscape was painted in 1837 during Richard Dadd’s first year as a student at the Royal Academy Schools. In these early years at the Academy Schools, Dadd began to show the exceptional promise which was to win him awards and plaudits from his contemporaries and fellow students. Frith was to remember that ‘Dadd was my superior in all respects; he drew infinitely better than I did’. Dadd began exhibiting at the Society of British Artists in 1837 with a ‘head of a man’ and in the following year landscapes of Kentish and West Country views.
This brooding painting belongs to a small group of surviving works in both watercolour and oil. These small-scale works appear to record the scenery to be found in the Chatham area which included Cobham Park. A cabinet painting on panel of similar size and similarly signed and dated is in the collection of York City Art Gallery.