Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Whistler Month: Thames Views

Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Old Battersea Bridge (circa 1872-5)
Oil on canvas, support: 683 x 512 mm frame: 922 x 760 x 83 mm painting
James McNeill Whistler

Tate Collection: Presented by The Art Fund 1905

I've found the most superb site for anybody interested in how the Thames featured in the work of Turner, Whistler or Monet. The Tate Gallery has a 'Thames Views' micro-site within the bit of the website dedicated to the Turner, Whistler, Monet exhibition in 2005. This is the
It provides:
  • a map of the locations of all the paintings and etchings done of the River Thames and its environs click on any of the locations and it produces the images associated with the location.
  • a list of walks - taking you to key places associated with the artists and their work. The walks also list the works associated with each location on the walk which you can see if you click the relevant link. There are also links to extracts from the audio tours. The walks are as follows:
    • Walk 1: Lots Road, Chelsea to Battersea
    • Walk 2: Tate Britain to Embankment via the South Bank - taking in Westminster Bridge (etched by Whistler) and the various views of the Houses of Parliament (by Monet)
    • Walk 3: Charing Cross to Waterloo via the Hungerford Bridge, Savoy Hotel and Waterloo Bridge
I have a mini obsession with 'walking the walk' and finding the locations that artists have painted in. In pursuing this I've travelled to and visited Monet's studio, house and gardens at Giverny, located the sites around the Saint Paul-de-Mausole asylum in St Remy where Van Gogh resided for a time and painted some of his most famous pictures, visited Cezanne's studio in Aix-en-Provence, and some of the places in Provence associated with his paintings, and last September I visited Winslow Homer's base at Prout's Neck and Rockland, Maine - the summer home of the Wyeths. However, despite living in London, I've never before been able to do an informed walk of the places where artists worked along the Thames - but I will be doing this summer!

Some of the etchings and works by Whistler that I like the best are:
  • the Thames set of etchings. The Thames Police is perhaps not the best in a pictorial sense but for those of use who know the current architecture associated with the HQ of the River Police, we can experience some nostalgia for things past........
Thames Police from the Thames set 1859
intaglio print, plate 15.2 x 22.2 cm, sheet 18.4 x 22.4 cm
James McNeill Whistler 1834-1903
Collection of the National Gallery of Australia
  • the Nocturne paintings such as the one of Old Battersea Bridge (top) . The Nocturnes were criticised by many as 'unfinished' and were completely unsaleable after the libel case. I find them very atmospheric - which is, of course, what Whistler was painting.
  • the Little London etchings of the panoramic view of the City of London and River Thames from his room on the sixth floor of the Savoy Hotel.
  • the etchings and paintings done around Wapping
Eagle Wharf from the Thames set 1859
intaglio print, plate 13.6 x 21.4 cm, sheet 16.0 x 23.8 cm
  • the painting of Wapping. However I think that the Tate Gallery have located the site of this painting incorrectly. The Public House called The Angel (which I know well) is actually located in Rotherhithe - and the view from the balcony over the River is of Wapping. I probably like it because I have sat on that balcony myself quite a few times over the years.......
I also found the "River of Dreams" interview exploring the impact of the River Thames on artistic vision to be very interesting.

Low Tide, Pool of London
20cm x 30cm, coloured pencils on Saunders Waterford HP
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

The image above is my effort at emulating Whistler's simplified and more abstracted approach to painting the Thames.

"Low tide, Pool of London was developed from a very quick sketch of Shad Thames, Tower Bridge and the Pool of London done on a sketchcrawl in March this year. I didn't have my camera with me on that trip but was able to take photographs for 'sizing' on a walk by the Thames at Easter. These indicated that my sketch sizing in the gale that was blowing at the time had been more than a little off! I'd like to try this again but do a monochromatic drawing next time.

The work will be on show at the Fine Line Artists Exhibition in Ontario during June.



  1. How wonderful that you have been able to walk in so many inspiring places! I love art history and feel that it is important to learn from those who came before us. It is a life goal of mine to visit some of the places you mentioned.
    :) Smiles!

  2. Hmm, I wonder how he managed to produce etchings in his room at the Savoy! I'm no expert on print-making techniques, but doesn't that require strong acids and so on? Wouldn't have thought that would have done down very well with the hotel! I remember that exhibition at the Tate a couple of years ago; wonderful stuff. I used to have a friend with a workshop in one of those Wapping warehouses, overlooking the river. Don't suppose he could afford it now that they've become so fashionable.

  3. Me ha gustado mucho este dibujo del Tamesis.
    También me gusto ver la acuarela de John Singer Sargent

    Felicidades por tu trabajo
    Antón Hurtado


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