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Works Thomas Girtin

The Albion Mills: Outline Study for the Eidometropolis, Section One

(?) 1801

Primary Image: TG1850: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), The Albion Mills: Outline Study for the 'Eidometropolis', Section One, (?) 1801, graphite, brush and ink and pen and ink on wove paper, squared for transfer, 28.8 × 53 cm, 11 ⅜ × 20 ⅞ in. British Museum, London (1991,1109.16).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • The Albion Mills: Outline Study for the Eidometropolis, Section One
(?) 1801
Medium and Support
Graphite, brush and ink and pen and ink on wove paper, squared for transfer
28.8 × 53 cm, 11 ⅜ × 20 ⅞ in
Part of
Object Type
Outline Drawing; Study for a Panorama
Subject Terms
City Life and Labour; London and Environs; Wind and Water Mills

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
225i as 'Girtin's Panorama of London (Eidometropolis): Sector I' ... Working Drawing'; '1797'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001, 2002 and 2016


Thomas Calvert Girtin (1801–74); then by descent to Thomas Girtin (1874–1960); given to Tom Girtin (1913–94), c.1938; his sale, Sotheby’s, 14 November 1991, lot 108; bought by the Museum through Marlborough Rare Books

Exhibition History

London, 1988a, no.35; London, 2002, no.150


Smith, 2018, pp.46–48

About this Work

Panorama of London from the Roof of Albion Mills. Plate Two: Albion Place

This view of the partly ruined Albion Mills, adjacent to Blackfriars Bridge, 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 figure 1), from where he had an uninterrupted view of the city. Using a perspective frame as a guide, he made this, the first of seven detailed outline drawings that complete a full circuit of the city. 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.44–45). 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 nature of the circular panorama is that it has no beginning or end, with the viewer entering the circuit from below to experience an uninterrupted view of London. However, the proximity of the mills opposite Girtin’s viewing position means that it dominates this section, and the artist chose the structure to complete the circle so that the left, undamaged part of the building reappears in section seven (TG1860). The mills also provided a considerable source of interest for visitors, having been burnt down in 1791, allegedly as a result of arson, and this was the subject of an early work by Girtin himself (TG0114). The mills introduced the latest steam technology, threatening the livelihood of the city’s traditional millers, and, even in their ruined, boarded-up state ten years later, they were still the subject of controversy (Smith, 2018, pp.46–48). The scene no doubt also had a personal significance for the artist since, just visible to the left of the central gable, is the tower of St Saviour, Southwark, which was the location of Girtin’s baptism in March 1775. The ruined mill obscures the network of mean terrace houses and small industrial and artisanal premises that characterised the area in which the artist spent his earliest years. 

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.196; Bower, Report).

(?) 1801

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


1792 - 1793

The Albion Mills, Southwark, after the Fire


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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