|Michael Rooker was born in London, the son of the engraver and actor Edward Rooker (1724 - 1774). During the 1760s he worked with his father while studying with, and perhaps assisting, Paul Sandby. By the end of the decade he had come to be known by the humorous nickname Sandby had given him: Michael 'Angelo' Rooker. In 1769 Rooker enrolled at the Royal Academy Schools and was elected Associate Academician the following year, although he never progressed to the rank of Academician. |
Each summer Rooker went on walking tours around parts of Britain, seeking out ruins and historical sites to portray. He regularly exhibited the resulting works at the Royal Academy. By the end of the eighteenth century the ruined medieval abbey of Valle Crucis (meaning Valley of the Cross), near Llangollen, had become established as one of the attractions on a Picturesque touring route through North Wales. Rooker produced several views of the abbey, this one showing the east end in the centre of the composition with the rest of the building partially obscured by tall trees. The trees at Valle Crucis seem to have been a matter of some debate at this time. In 1773 William Gilpin suggested that strategic tree planting would help to show the ruins to better advantage, while in 1800 Sir Richard Colt Hoare admited the ash trees but thought some could be removed to allow a better view of the abbey's west front.
This watercolour has been identified as the one that Rooker exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1794 as Llanegwast or Valle Crucis Abbey, Denbighshire.