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Works Thomas Girtin

Blackfriars Bridge to London Bridge: Outline Study for the Eidometropolis, Section Seven

(?) 1801

Primary Image: TG1860: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Blackfriars Bridge to London Bridge: Outline Study for the 'Eidometropolis', Section Seven, (?) 1801, graphite and pen and ink on wove paper, squared for transfer, 23.6 × 50 cm, 9 ¼ × 19 ⅝ in. London Metropolitan Archives (q8972599).

Photo courtesy of London Metropolitan Archives (City of London) (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Blackfriars Bridge to London Bridge: Outline Study for the Eidometropolis, Section Seven
(?) 1801
Medium and Support
Graphite and pen and ink on wove paper, squared for transfer
23.6 × 50 cm, 9 ¼ × 19 ⅝ in

‘Blackfriars Bridge’ lower left, by a later hand; ‘leave out this vesel’ lower right, by Thomas Girtin

Part of
Object Type
Outline Drawing; Study for a Panorama
Subject Terms
City Life and Labour; London and Environs; The River Thames

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
226i as 'Girtin's Panorama of London (Eidometropolis): Sector II'; '1797'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001, 2002 and 2016


Charles Cheers Wakefield (1859–1941); presented to the Guildhall Art Gallery, 1937

Exhibition History

London, 1988a, no.35; London, 2002, no.158


Smith, 2018, pp.62–65

About this Work

This outline of the north bank of the Thames, terminating in London Bridge and the first bay of the Albion Mills, 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. Sometime in 1801, Girtin took up a position at the river end of the roof of Albion Place Terrace (see TG1850 figure 1), from where he had an uninterrupted view of the city. Using a perspective frame as a guide, he made this, the last of seven detailed outline drawings that complete a full circuit. Six of these survive, each of which has a grid superimposed on it made up of squares that correspond to one square foot of the monumental circular canvas employed for the painted panorama (Smith, 2018, p.45). The drawings were then passed over to the artist’s assistants, whose first task was to transfer Girtin’s outlines onto a canvas that, according to the advertisements taken out by the artist, measured ‘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) – taking care to modify the straight lines so that they did not appear bent on the circular surface. The function of the outline drawings was therefore quite different from anything else seen in Girtin’s output; they prioritised the recording of accurate topographical information for the use of others to create a template that could then be painted in oil to produce the deceptive effect of the final 360-degree view. The fact that the outline drawings were made for the use of assistants should have been clear earlier, as this sheet actually includes an instruction (seen at the bottom right) from Girtin to ‘omit this vessel’, referring to the barge that is shown tied up at Albion Mills wharf. 

The Thames on Lord Mayor's Day, Looking towards the City and St Paul's Cathedral

Although confined to a narrow band in the distance, the section to the immediate east of Blackfriars Bridge is dominated by a double register that balances a riverbank thronged by commercial buildings and a skyline spanned by the results of the Herculean campaign to rebuild the churches damaged or destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666. In contrast with the anonymous warehousing along the riverfront, the identification of which is not helped by the dull light, no fewer than twenty-eight of the City churches can be recognised, many of which are depicted in some detail. Nonetheless, this is fewer than can be identified in The Thames on Lord Mayor’s Day (see figure 1) by Giovanni Antonio Canal (Canaletto) (1697–1768), which was taken from almost exactly the same position, albeit prior to the building of Blackfriars Bridge. This is no doubt, at least partly, because the earlier topographical artist carefully moved the positions of some of the churches to avoid the way that some are inevitably obscured by others if one simply copies what one sees from a fixed viewpoint. Strictly adhering to what can be seen means, as various reviewers noted of this section of Girtin’s panorama, that some of the city’s key landmarks lose out, so that the great extent of the Port of London is all but excluded, London Bridge is represented by a few tiny arches and the Tower of London disappears into the distance, whilst the first bay of the Albion Mills, which closes the 360-degree circuit begun in section one, towers above everything. In fact, a minor miscalculation by Girtin – stemming from his decision to divide his circuit into an odd number of sections – means that the Albion Mills do not quite complete the circuit. The single bay shown in this drawing, which was actually left undamaged by the fire that ravaged the rest of the structure, omits a short section of the façade, which the artist’s assistants would have had to improvise on the canvas (Smith, 2018, pp.62–65). 

The support employed for all of the pencil sketches for the panorama is a white wove drawing paper, which the paper historian Peter Bower has suggested was probably made by the Balston and Hollingworth Brothers Partnership at Turkey Mill, Maidstone, Kent (Smith, 2002b, p.205; Bower, Report). 

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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