About the artwork
View from Bidston Hill shows a rural landscape to the south west of Wirral, the peninsula to the west of Liverpool. Painted in 1865, it reveals open heath land leading towards the Dee estuary and North Wales, with Moel Famau in the distance. A hunter can be seen emerging from dense woodland, and a startled hare leaps from the foreground. T
his popular landscape is one of eleven paintings by William Davis owned by the Walker Art Gallery. When it was first shown at the Liverpool Academy in 1865 The Liverpool Daily Post and Echo critic considered the inclusion of such a large hare "an eccentric intrusion". Nevertheless, Davis was admired by other Pre-Raphaelite artists of the day and enjoyed the patronage of major Liverpool merchants and bankers.
William Davis was born in Dublin and studied art at the Dublin Society's School. After a short period in Sheffield, where he painted portraits, Davis was drawn to the wealthy art market of Liverpool, and here he settled in around 1842.
Davis studied at the Liverpool Academy, becoming a member in 1853, and it was at about this time that he turned to landscapes, probably under the influence of his chief patron in Liverpool, the tobacco merchant John Miller, and the artist Robert Tonge. He soon became a key figure within the Liverpool Pre-Raphaelite school.
Major Pre-Raphaelite artists such as D.G. Rossetti and Ford Madox Brown greatly appreciated Davis's work for its small-scale perfection and delicacy of colour. John Ruskin, however, did not approve, chiefly because his paintings lacked serious content.
Although Davis enjoyed the brief patronage of major Liverpool collectors, his success was only modest even when he moved to London.
View from Bidston Hill was bequeathed to the gallery by John Elliot in 1917.