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Works Thomas Girtin

A Panoramic View of the Thames from the Adelphi Terrace, Section Three: Westminster Bridge to York Stairs

(?) 1796

Primary Image: TG1380: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Panoramic View of the Thames from the Adelphi Terrace, Section Three: Westminster Bridge to York Stairs, (?) 1796, graphite and watercolour on paper, 15.2 × 45.7 cm, 6 × 18 in (approximate measurement). Private Collection (Untraced).

Photo courtesy of Private Collection (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Panoramic View of the Thames from the Adelphi Terrace, Section Three: Westminster Bridge to York Stairs
(?) 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
15.2 × 45.7 cm, 6 × 18 in (approximate measurement)
Object Type
Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
London and Environs; Panoramic Format; The River Thames

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
140 as 'The Thames from Adelphi Terrace'; '1795–6'
Description Source(s)
Photograph in the Finberg Archive, Tate Britain, Study Room


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 26–28 June and 1–2 July 1833 (day and lot number not known); probably Christie's, 1 April 1911, lot 124 as ‘Panorama of London’ by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin, 8 × 65 in; ‘Gabriel’, £20 9s 6d; Fine Art Society, London, 1912

Exhibition History

Possibly Dudley Galleries, London, 1913


Girtin and Loshak, 1954, pp.58–59; Morris, 1986, p.24; Morris, 1988, pp.60–63; Smith, 2002b, pp.192–93; Smith, 2018, pp.25-30

About this Work

This is one of three extended pencil drawings that together make up a 180-degree view looking south out over the river Thames from the Adelphi (the others being TG1378 and TG1379). Despite every effort, the unique set of drawings remains untraced, having last been seen in 1912, when it was sold by the Fine Art Society, London, and the images shown here are reproduced from black and white photographs taken then.1 There is, however, enough detail to confirm the attribution to Girtin and to give an approximate date of 1796 to scenes that are equivalent to three double-page spreads from a sketchbook; connected together, they form a detailed panoramic view of the city’s buildings, with Blackfriars Bridge framing the view to the east and Westminster Bridge closing off the view to the west (Smith, 2018, pp.25–30). The drawings were almost certainly made from one of the upper windows of the residence of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), at whose home at the west end of the Royal Terrace Girtin and his exact contemporary, Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), worked during the winter months of 1794 through to 1798. It is likely that Monro commissioned the drawings from Girtin as a record of the spectacular river view that he inherited when he moved into the Adelphi in the spring of 1794.

'A View from Somerset Gardens to Westminster Bridge'

As with the first of the three views that make up the 180-degree view, Girtin’s vista looking west bears a striking resemblance to a work by Giovanni Antonio Canal (Canaletto) (1697–1768), whose View from Somerset Gardens to Westminster Bridge the artist may have known from a print (see figure 1). But, whilst Canaletto chose his viewpoint with care so that the gardens in the foreground hide the unsightly mass of the water tower of the York Buildings Waterworks, and Westminster Hall, Westminster Abbey and the Banqueting House in Whitehall all line up as a satisfying continuation of the bridge, the same buildings in Girtin’s view are jumbled together and dwarfed by the industrial tower. Moreover, the view is abruptly terminated by the upper part of a building adjacent to the Adelphi, whose chimneys take up more of the view than the nation’s pre-eminent Gothic monument beyond. Girtin’s commission fixed him to a location that, although it worked well in one direction, resulted in unsatisfactory disorder in the other. Arbitrary and unfocused outcomes such as these, where topographical significance is compromised, are a key characteristic of panoramas, which generates as many bad views as it does good, and in this respect this view of London is a prescient precursor of Girtin’s 360-degree Eidometropolis (1801–2), which, it must be remembered, was produced as a monumental public spectacle rather than a private commission.

Another extended view of the river appeared at auction in 1911 (Sotheby's, 8 December 1911, lot 171). Described as a 'Drawing: A Long Panoramic View of the Thames (Surrey side) from Blackfriars to Westminster, in sepia, signed Thomas Girtin, 1796’ and measuring 16 ½ × 67 in (41.9 × 170.2 cm) it too has not been traced.

(?) 1796

A Panoramic View of the Thames from the Adelphi Terrace, Section One: Somerset House to Blackfriars Bridge


(?) 1796

A Panoramic View of the Thames from the Adelphi Terrace, Section Two: The Surrey Bank


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 This was probably the ‘panoramic view of London’ shown at the Dudley Galleries in London in 1913 as ‘attributed to Thomas Girtin and J. M. W. Turner’. But as the anonymous critic of The Architect noted, ‘the evidence to support the latter’s co-operation in the drawing is not strong’ (The Architect & Contract Reporter, vol.90, 29 August 1913, p.196). The double attribution suggests that the drawing might well have been the ‘Panorama of London’ listed as by Turner and Girtin in an auction at Christie’s in 1911 even though the measurements do not quite match (Christie's, 1 April 1911, lot 124).

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