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Works Thomas Girtin

Great Surrey Street and Christ Church, Southwark: Outline Study for the Eidometropolis, Section Two

(?) 1801

Primary Image: TG1852: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Great Surrey Street and Christ Church, Southwark: Outline Study for the 'Eidometropolis', Section Two, (?) 1801, graphite, pen and ink and brush and ink on wove paper, squared for transfer, 28.1 × 50.5 cm, 11 ⅛ × 19 ⅞ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.4325).

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (Public Domain)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Great Surrey Street and Christ Church, Southwark: Outline Study for the Eidometropolis, Section Two
(?) 1801
Medium and Support
Graphite, pen and ink and brush and ink on wove paper, squared for transfer
28.1 × 50.5 cm, 11 ⅛ × 19 ⅞ in

Grid numbered along the top '2' to '16' and '3' to '9' from the bottom (square 10 not noted); one of the squares is marked ‘6 3’ to signify inches. Various roofs are annotated ‘slate’ and the rotunda is marked ‘glass’. A later inscription on the back shows through.

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

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2002


Thomas Lowinsky (1892–1947) (his collector's mark, Lugt no.2420a); Ruth J. Emilie Lowinsky (1893–1958); ... Sotheby's, 22 December 1965, lot 122; Mrs E. A. Isaacs; her sale, Christie’s, 15 June 1971, lot 129 as 'A Panoramic View of London Looking South from Blackfriars Bridge at Albion Place'; bought by 'Elson', £945; Sotheby’s, 18 July 1974, lot 127; bought by Paul Mellon (1907–99), £800; presented to the Center, 1977

Exhibition History

New Haven, 1986a, no.79; London, 1988a, no.35; London, 2002, no.151


Pragnell, 1968, p.13, p.15, p.20; Wilcox, 1976, pp.49–54; Smith, 2018, pp.49–51

About this Work

This view looking along Great Surrey Street, 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. Sometime in 1801, Girtin took up a position on 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 second 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, pp.45–46). 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 second of the seven sections of the panorama is most notable for what it does not show, for a large area of the foreground is left blank. This corresponds to the roof of the Albion Place Terrace, which was Girtin’s precarious viewpoint and from which, seated at the river end, his view south would have been dominated by a line of chimneys. Girtin presumably chose to leave this blank in the drawing because it would not have been possible to paint such close objects in an illusive manner on the canvas, and the roof would have been mocked up instead as a three-dimensional structure using real tiles and chimneys to reinforce the impression that the spectator too was standing on the very spot that Girtin had occupied (Smith, 2018, pp.49–51). The view in this direction was in any case not the most picturesque, dominated as it was by the new terraces that had sprung up following the completion of Blackfriars Bridge a few decades before, though their regular lines were broken up by the tower of Christ Church, Southwark, and one of the buildings was occupied by the Leverian Museum of Natural Curiosities, the rotunda of which is visible to the left. This section may have lacked in visual interest, but, as one of the reviewers mentioned, the line of development leading to a glimpse of the distant hills helped to create a dynamic image of the city’s rapid expansion, so much so that a future viewer ‘would see what London was, and mark the great alterations that are about to take place’ (Morning Herald, 6 December 1802).1 Sadly, the colour study for this section does not survive, though it is possible to imagine the sky and the distant views of the landscape as a continuation of the first section (TG1851). 

The support employed for all of the pencil sketches for the panorama is a white wove drawing paper, which the historian Peter Bower has suggested was probably made by the Balston and Hollingworth Brothers Partnership at Turkey Mill, Maidstone, Kent (Smith, 2002b, p.197; Bower, Report).

(?) 1801

The Albion Mills: Colour Study for the ‘Eidometropolis’, Section One


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 This highly informative review is transcribed in full in the Documents section of the Archive (1802 - Item 5).

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