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Works Thomas Girtin

The Thames from the Temple to Blackfriars: Colour Study for the Eidometropolis, Section Five

(?) 1801

Primary Image: TG1857: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), The Thames from the Temple to Blackfriars: Colour Study for the 'Eidometropolis', Section Five, (?) 1801, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 21.1 × 48.4 cm, 8 ¼ × 19 in. British Museum, London (1855,0214.25).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • The Thames from the Temple to Blackfriars: Colour Study for the Eidometropolis, Section Five
(?) 1801
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
21.1 × 48.4 cm, 8 ¼ × 19 in

‘25’ on the back; ‘by Girtin’ on the back, not in Thomas Girtin’s hand

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
228 as 'Girtin's Panorama of London (Eidometropolis): Sector IV'; '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, lots 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

Manchester, 1975, no.27; London, 1985, no.82c; London, 1988a, no.34; London, 2002, no.155


Binyon, 1898–1907, no.33; Binyon, 1900, pl.15; Whitley, 1924, fig.4; Pragnell, 1968, pp.18–19; Smith, 2018, pp.57–58

About this Work

This colour study of the north bank of the Thames, stretching from the Temple to Blackfriars, 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 drawing of the fifth of the seven sections (TG1856), which fixed the positions of the buildings from a viewpoint on the Albion Place Terrace (see TG1850 figure 1), Girtin copied the outlines onto another sheet of paper, to which he 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 involved in the painting of the monumental canvas at all, though it is also possible that he worked on some of the final details, perhaps including the boats on the river, which are barely indicated in the colour sketch and may therefore have been improvised on the canvas. 

The predominant effect in the view north west is of a bright noonday sun, with the clouds parting to light up the west- and south-facing walls of the buildings and open spaces adjoining the river. The effect was noticed by a reviewer of the panorama, who praised the way that the ‘brighter tint’ of the ‘Temple-gardens’ did not disturb the ‘harmony’ of the whole (Monthly Magazine, October 1802, p.255), whilst another anonymous writer noted the quiet contrast with the next scene and the ‘impending storm over the City’ (Morning Herald, 6 December 1802).3 There is an easy democracy about the way in which the light equally enlivens the Temple district, with its potent historical associations, and the industrial and commercial buildings approaching Blackfriars Bridge. The former, dominated by the buildings of one of the four Inns of Court that surround the Inner Temple Gardens, was the location, according to Shakespeare in Henry VI, Part I, for the catalyst of the Wars of the Roses, whilst the bold form of the Middle Temple Hall behind, perhaps the finest Elizabethan building in central London, famously saw the first performance of Twelfth Night. The same band of light extends further east to illuminate the grand structure of the New River Office and the Whitefriars Docks, with the Whitefriars Glasshouse behind. Also standing out is the newly completed monumental warehouse at the Grand Junction Wharf, which is shown under construction with the scaffolding still in place in the pencil study (Smith, 2018, p.57–58). 

The support employed by Girtin 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.202; Bower, Report). 

(?) 1801

The Thames from the Temple to Blackfriars: Outline Study for the ‘Eidometropolis’, Section Five


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

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