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Works Thomas Girtin

Westminster and Lambeth: Colour Study for the Eidometropolis, Section Three

(?) 1801

Primary Image: TG1854: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Westminster and Lambeth: Colour Study for the 'Eidometropolis', Section Three, (?) 1801, graphite and watercolour on laid paper (watermark: J WHATMAN), 29.2 × 52.5 cm, 11 ½ × 20 ⅝ in. British Museum, London (1855,0214.23).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Description
Creator(s)
Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
Title
  • Westminster and Lambeth: Colour Study for the Eidometropolis, Section Three
Date
(?) 1801
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper (watermark: J WHATMAN)
Dimensions
29.2 × 52.5 cm, 11 ½ × 20 ⅝ in
Part of
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work; Study for a Panorama
Subject Terms
City Life and Labour; London and Environs

Collection
Catalogue Number
TG1854
Girtin & Loshak Number
230ii as 'Girtin's Panorama of London (Eidometropolis): Sector VI'; '1800'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001, 2002 and 2016

Provenance

John Jackson (d.1828), almost certainly from his son-in-law, John Girtin (1773–1821); his posthumous sale, Foster's, 24 April 1828, lots 342–45 as 'unfinished Views of London'; bought by 'Colnaghi'; Henry Peter Standly (1782–1844); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 16 April 1845, lot 398, ‘coloured drawings, views of London, the drawings taken on the spot which afterward served to paint the large panorama’; bought by 'C. Hall' £5 15s; Chambers Hall (1786–1855); presented to the Museum, 1855

Exhibition History

London, 1934a, no.351; London, 1958d, section 62; Amsterdam, 1965, no.51; Manchester, 1975, no.25; London, 1984b, no.178; London, 1985, no.82a; London, 1988a, no.34; Essen, 1992, no.230a; London, 2002, no.153

Bibliography

Redgrave and Redgrave, 1890, p.144; Roget, 1891, vol.1, pp.106–08; Redgrave, 1892, p.34; Finberg, 1905, p.58, p.60, p.64; Binyon, 1898–1907, no.31; Stokes, 1922, pp.52–54; Whitley, 1924, fig.2; Whitley, 1928, pp.13–20; Johnson, 1932, pp.147–48; Binyon, 1933, p.107, pp.109–10; Bury, 1942, p.39; Mayne, 1949, pp.61–62, p.94; Williams, 1952, p.105; Lemaître, 1955, p.202; Hardie, 1966–68, vol.2, p.9; Pragnell, 1968, p.18; Egerton, 1979, p.10; Morris, 1987b, p.18; Finch, 1991, pp.40–41; Bermingham, 2001, pp.128–29; Smith, 2018, pp.51–53

About this Work

This colour study, focusing on the contrasting types of domestic housing in the still underdeveloped area of Lambeth, south of the river Thames, was made by Girtin in preparation for the painting of his 360-degree panorama of London, which opened to the public in August 1802 as the Eidometropolis. Following the completion of the outline drawing of the third of the seven sections (TG1853), which fixed the positions of the buildings from his viewpoint on the roof of the Albion Place Terrace (see TG1850 figure 1), Girtin copied the sketch onto another sheet of paper, to which he then added colour (Smith, 2018, pp.45–46). This is not a sketch worked from nature, therefore, but was produced in the studio, where Girtin improvised the complex light and weather effects, which ensured the dramatic impact that marked out his version of the newly invented visual spectacle as the ‘connoisseur’s panorama’ (Monthly Magazine, October 1802, p.255).1 The recent discovery of the payments made to ‘his men employed in painting the picture of London’ has made it clear that this and the other four surviving colour studies were made as guides for specialist scene painters to add the colour to the monumental circular canvas, measuring ‘1944 square feet’ (about 180 square metres) – that is, 18 ft high (5.5 m) with a circumference of 108 ft (5.5 × 33 m) (Chancery, Income and Expenses, 1804).2 Another recent discovery, a newspaper advertisement, actually goes as far as to show that the panorama was ‘taken … from Drawings painted by Mr. Thos. Girtin’ (Morning Chronicle, 14 October 1801). It may therefore be that Girtin was not involved in the painting of the monumental canvas at all, though it is also possible that he worked on some of the final details. 

The colour study for this section is particularly instructive of the radical way in which Girtin’s panorama subverted the subject hierarchy of topographical views. Thus, though it was the viewpoint that dictated the fact that the foreground of humble domestic buildings overshadows the famous landmarks in Westminster, it was the artist who chose to highlight the former and cast the distance into shade. Particularly interesting, in this respect, is the way in which the slate roofs of the newly built terraces in Stamford Street in the middle ground are illuminated, helping to create a visual interest in a typical stretch of featureless speculative building that conformed to the new building regulations. All of this contrasts both with the picturesque qualities of the older houses shown in the foreground and with the historical monuments seen in silhouette on the horizon. In fact, much of the land beyond was still undeveloped, and this is barely discernible in the outline drawing, nor is another intriguing detail seen alongside the terraces – namely, the last remnants of the tentergrounds that accompanied the textile industries that were once an important part of the Lambeth economy (Smith, 2018, pp.51–53). Thus, where the pencil drawing has the inscription ‘grass’, the colour study includes areas of paper left white to represent cloth drying in the sun. This, together with the windmills and the open spaces of Lambeth’s marshes, was soon to be lost to the sort of speculative development that Girtin makes such a feature of in his vision of the city in the process of change. 

The support employed by Girtin for all of the colour studies for the panorama has been identified by the paper historian Peter Bower as a white laid writing paper that was made by James Whatman the Younger (1741–98) at the Turkey Mill, Maidstone (Smith, 2002b, p.198; Bower, Report).

(?) 1801

Westminster and Lambeth: Outline Study for the ‘Eidometropolis’, Section Three

TG1853

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Footnotes

  1. 1 This highly informative review is transcribed in full in the Documents section of the Archive (1802 – Item 3).
  2. 2 The financial records of the artist's brother John Girtin (1773–1821) include the income he received from the Eidometropolis as well as the expenses he incurred. They are transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1804 – Item 1).

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