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Works Thomas Girtin

Westminster and Lambeth: Outline Study for the Eidometropolis, Section Three

(?) 1801

Primary Image: TG1853: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Westminster and Lambeth: Outline Study for the 'Eidometropolis', Section Three, (?) 1801, graphite and pen and ink on wove paper, squared for transfer, 32 × 54 cm, 12 ⅝ × 21 ¼ in. British Museum, London (1991,1109.15).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Westminster and Lambeth: Outline Study for the Eidometropolis, Section Three
(?) 1801
Medium and Support
Graphite and pen and ink on wove paper, squared for transfer
32 × 54 cm, 12 ⅝ × 21 ¼ in
Part of
Object Type
Outline Drawing; Study for a Panorama
Subject Terms
City Life and Labour; London and Environs

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
230i as 'Girtin's Panorama of London (Eidometropolis): Sector VI ... 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 107; bought by the Museum through Marlborough Rare Books

Exhibition History

Cambridge, 1920, no.54; London, 1962a, no.130; Hamburg, 1976, no.237; London, 1988a, no.35; London, 2002, no.152


Smith, 2018, pp.51–53

About this Work

This view out over a picturesque mix of older housing and the new terraces of Lambeth to the historic buildings of Westminster 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 TG1850 figure 1), from where he had an uninterrupted view of the city. Using a perspective frame as a guide, he made this, the third 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.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. 

This section of the panorama is notable for the contrast between the older domestic properties in the foreground, with their clay-tiled roofs and air of picturesque irregularity, and a band of new developments in the middle ground, which were springing up even as the artist made his sketch (Smith, 2018, pp.51–53). The terraces in Stamford Street, constructed in London stock brick with slate roofs according to the standards of the latest building regulations, appear ready to cut a swathe through the Lambeth landscape beyond, which was still predominantly undeveloped at this date. We are apt to notice such details because of the democratic, if not random, nature of the panoramic mode of vision, which means that the adoption of a single viewpoint ensures that some of the city’s most important and celebrated buildings will either be relegated to the background or appear from unusual and sometimes unrecognisable angles, whilst the humblest of backyards and roof terraces occupy a disproportionate amount of space. In this case, the two towers of Westminster Abbey fuse into one confusing mass, Westminster Bridge barely emerges from the surrounding buildings and is unconnected to the river, and landmarks such as St John’s Smith Square and Lambeth Palace appear as insignificant forms on the horizon in comparison with the ordinary buildings in Upper Ground, which we feel we can almost reach out to touch. 

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.198; Bower, Report). 

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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