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Works Thomas Girtin

The Thames from Queenhithe to London Bridge: Colour Study for the Eidometropolis, Section Seven

(?) 1801

Primary Image: TG1861: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), The Thames from Queenhithe to London Bridge: Colour Study for the 'Eidometropolis', Section Seven, (?) 1801, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 20.7 × 44.5 cm, 8 ⅛ × 17 ½ in. British Museum, London (1855,0214.28).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • The Thames from Queenhithe to London Bridge: Colour Study for the Eidometropolis, Section Seven
(?) 1801
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
20.7 × 44.5 cm, 8 ⅛ × 17 ½ in
Part of
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work; Study for a Panorama
Subject Terms
City Life and Labour; London and Environs; The River Thames

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
226ii as 'Girtin's Panorama of London (Eidometropolis): Sector II'; '1797–8'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001, 2002 and 2016


John Jackson (d.1828), almost certainly from his son-in-law, John Girtin (1773–1821); his posthumous sale, Foster's, 24 April 1828, lot 342–45 as 'unfinished Views of London'; bought by 'Colnaghi'; Henry Peter Standly (1782–1844); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 16 April 1845, lot 398, ‘coloured drawings, views of London, the drawings taken on the spot which afterward served to paint the large panorama’; bought by 'C. Hall' £5 15s; Chambers Hall (1786–1855); presented to the Museum, 1855

Exhibition History

Munich, 1973, no.131; Manchester, 1975, no.28; London, 1985, no.82e; New York, 1987, no.233; London, 1988a, no.34a; Cleveland, 1991, no.40; Essen, 1992, no.230b; London, 2002, no.157


Binyon, 1898–1907, no.35; Sparrow, 1902, p.94; Davies, 1924, pl.70; Whitley, 1924, fig.6; Mayne, 1949, pp.61–62, p.95; Pragnell, 1968, p.19; Smith, 2018, pp.62–65

About this Work

This colour study of the north bank of the Thames, stretching from Queenhithe to London 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. Following the completion of the outline drawing of the last of the seven sections (TG1860), which fixed the positions of the buildings from his viewpoint on the Albion Place Terrace (see TG1850 figure 1), Girtin copied his drawing onto another sheet of paper, omitting the first bay of the Albion Mills to the right, and then added colour (Smith, 2018, pp.45–46). This is not a sketch worked from nature, therefore, but was produced in the studio, where Girtin improvised the complex light and weather effects, which ensured the dramatic impact that marked out his version of the newly invented visual spectacle as the ‘connoisseur’s panorama’ (Monthly Magazine, October 1802, p.255).1 The recent discovery of the payments made to ‘his men employed in painting the picture of London’ has made it clear that this and the other four surviving colour studies were made as guides for specialist scene painters to add the colour to the monumental circular canvas, measuring ‘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) (Chancery, Income and Expenses, 1804).2 Another recent discovery, a newspaper advertisement, actually goes as far as to show that the panorama was ‘taken … from Drawings painted by Mr. Thos. Girtin’ (Morning Chronicle, 14 October 1801). It may therefore be that Girtin was not heavily involved in the painting of the monumental canvas, though it is also possible that he worked on some of the final details, not least the skyscape and the depiction of reflections in the water seen to such effect here, which could have proved beyond the ability of his collaborators to realise. 

Panorama of London from the Roof of Albion Mills. Plate Five: The Thames to London Bridge

Girtin’s distinctive contribution to the tradition of depicting the capital in a panoramic format can be appreciated more fully by comparing this work with The Thames on Lord Mayor’s Day (see TG1860 figure 1) by Giovanni Antonio Canal (Canaletto) (1697–1768), which was taken from almost the same position, though prior to the building of Blackfriars Bridge. Thus, in comparison with the even light that illuminates each of the buildings shown by the earlier master, Girtin sacrifices the legibility of the individual parts of the composition in favour of the more dramatic effect of a gathering storm and a river enlivened by complex reflections. It is still possible to make out the identity of almost thirty of the towers in the double register of riverfront wharves and churches that are crammed into a narrow band beyond the river, but this is much fewer than what is visible in Canaletto’s comparable view. This is perhaps because the earlier topographical artist moved the positions of some of the churches to avoid the way that some are inevitably obscured by others if a fixed viewpoint is strictly adhered to. Free to move just a few metres downriver, Canaletto could tailor his view to avoid the way in which, as various reviewers noted of Girtin’s panorama, significant landmarks such as the Tower of London are all but lost in the distance, whilst London Bridge is represented by a few tiny arches (Smith, 2018, pp.62–65). In fact, it seems that it was only visitors to the Eidometropolis at its showing in France after Girtin’s death who saw this as a problem, and a ‘connoisseur’s panorama’ that prioritised natural effects over topographical fact satisfied the London critics at least (London und Paris, 1804Monthly Magazine, October 1802, p.255), though the attendance figures, which averaged out at just ninety a week, suggest that this may have come with a financial cost to Girtin and his brother John Girtin (1773–1821), as co-proprietors of the venture (Smith, 2018, pp.42–43).3

The support employed for all of the colour studies for the panorama has been identified by the paper historian Peter Bower as a white laid writing paper that was made by James Whatman the Younger (1741–98) at the Turkey Mill, Maidstone (Smith, 2002b, p.204; Bower, Report). 

(?) 1801

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


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 This highly informative review is transcribed in full in the Documents section of the Archive (1802 – Item 3).
  2. 2 The financial records of the artist's brother John Girtin (1773–1821) include the income he received from the Eidometropolis as well as the expenses he incurred. They are transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1804 – Item 1).
  3. 3 The review of the probable Paris showing of the Eidometropolis is transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1804 – Item 2).

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