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Works Thomas Girtin

London Bridge, from the South Bank

1791 - 1792

Primary Image: TG0079: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), London Bridge, from the South Bank, 1791–92, graphite and watercolour on paper, 14 × 22.9 cm, 5 ½ × 9 in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Wyld Fine Art (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • London Bridge, from the South Bank
1791 - 1792
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
14 × 22.9 cm, 5 ½ × 9 in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
City Life and Labour; London and Environs; River Scenery; The River Thames

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2005


W/S Fine Art Ltd / Andrew Wyld, London, 2005

Exhibition History

Andrew Wyld, 2005, no.22 as a pair with TG0074

About this Work

John Dadley (1767–1817), after Edward Dayes (1763–1804), etching and engraving, ' View of London Bridge', 10 October 1798, 21.3 × 26.4 cm, 8 ⅜ × 10 ⅜ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.15428).

Although not signed or dated, London Bridge, from the South Bank, together with its pair, Westminster Abbey and Bridge, from Lambeth (TG0074), displays a number of signs that it was made by Girtin very early in his career, presumably during the period of his apprenticeship to Edward Dayes (1763–1804). Many of the works executed by Girtin in Dayes’ studio were made after his master’s compositions, but this is far less likely in the case of London subjects, where the apprentice might have travelled a mile or so downriver to sketch a companion view to Westminster Bridge. Girtin may not have copied a work by Dayes, but its similarity to one of his master’s compositions (see figure 1) suggests that he was still influenced by Dayes’ approach to urban topography. By adopting a similar low viewpoint on the near bank with the bridge at an oblique angle and the pictorial emphasis placed on the opposite shore, Girtin used Dayes’ composition as the basis for an image of the nation’s mercantile wealth. The result is a contrast to the essentially panoramic view of Westminster Abbey and Bridge, where the river is more of a place of leisure; here everything is bustling industry, with a long line of wharves and warehouses traversing the image. Even the short section of Old London Bridge that is shown has been turned over to industry. In contrast to the medieval bridge’s picturesque heyday, when houses and shops stretched across its span, the first arches were now occupied by the waterwheels of the London Bridge Waterworks, which used the tidal sweep of the river to pump drinking water inland. Three of the city’s architectural monuments do show above the scene of bustle, however. From left to right, we see the tower of St Magnus the Martyr; the spire of St Dunstan-in-the-East; and, prominently, The Monument. All offer a contrast with London’s trading heart.

Views of London by Girtin were sent by Dayes to auction in both 1791 and 1792, and it is possible that this work and its pair were the ‘Two ditto of London’ sold by the artist’s master at Greenwood’s (Exhibitions: Greenwood, 10 June 1791, lot 38). If this was the case, they may have been produced by the young artist as part of the price of paying off his indentures as it is clear that Girtin’s apprenticeship came to an end well before its statutory seven-year period.

1791 - 1792

Westminster Abbey and Bridge, from Lambeth


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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