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Works Thomas Girtin

Westminster, from the West Corner of the Adelphi Terrace

(?) 1796

Primary Image: TG1385: Thomas Girtin (1775-1802), Westminster, from the West Corner of the Adelphi Terrace, (?) 1796, graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on paper, 29.5 × 21.7 cm, 11 ⅝ × 8 ½ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Westminster, from the West Corner of the Adelphi Terrace
(?) 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on paper
29.5 × 21.7 cm, 11 ⅝ × 8 ½ in
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
London and Environs; The River Thames

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
139 as 'Westminster from Adelphi Terrace'; '1795–6'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 1993


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie’s, 28 June 1833, lot 50 as 'The Thames from Adelphi' by Thomas Girtin; bought by 'Monro', £1 5s; Alexander Monro (1802–44); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 19 May 1845, lot 87 as 'View of the Thames, from the Adelphi - a beautiful small drawing, in pen and Indian ink'; ... E. V. Walker; bought by J. Palser & Sons, 1 July 1907 (stock no.16377); bought by Sir Walter Prideaux (1846–1928), 9 December 1907; then by descent to Walter Treverbian Prideaux (1875–1958); his sale, Sotheby’s, 6 June 1951, lot 40; bought by 'Polak', £65; Bury Street Gallery, London; Sotheby’s, 11 July 1991, lot 168, £4,400; A. H. Baldwin & Sons

Exhibition History

Birmingham, 1993, no.104

About this Work

This monochrome study of the view west from the terrace of the Adelphi shows, from left to right, a few arches of Westminster Bridge, the four towers of St John’s Smith Square and the upper part of Westminster Abbey, with the eighteenth-century western towers prominent. However, these elegant monuments are dwarfed by the water tower of the York Buildings Waterworks and, in front of that, by the back of a row of houses in George Street adjacent to the Adelphi. The Adelphi was the great riverside speculative development of Robert Adam (1728–92), with his brothers John Adam (1721–92) and James Adam (1732–94), which situated a monumental row of terraces above huge vaults for commercial use, and it was here that Girtin’s important early patron Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) took up residence in 1794. In addition to the numerous copies that Girtin made at Monro’s home in collaboration with his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), the artist was commissioned to depict the magnificent prospect from his patron’s apartment towards the west end of the terrace, and the result was the 180-degree panoramic drawing that terminates in a very similar view of the riverbank at Westminster (TG1380), where again the water tower and the same back wall dominate. This monochrome view, however, though clearly related to the panoramic vista in terms of the subject, was taken from lower down (at the level of the terrace) and from a closer viewpoint, and it does not seem to be related to the pencil drawing; certainly, it was not produced as a study for the 180-degree view.

Westminster from near the York Water Gate

Whilst it is simple enough to see why Monro might have wanted a record of the vista from his home, this view, which is even more unconventional than the equivalent section of the 180-degree drawing in terms of the way in which some of London’s finest monuments are obscured, is a less obvious object of interest for the patron. The view from very close to his home was no doubt important for Monro, but presumably less so than what Girtin did with such unpromising material. Taking his inspiration from the great master of urban topography, Giovanni Antonio Canal (Canaletto) (1697–1768), Girtin worked a variation of the Venetian visitor’s subject using many of the stylistic touches that he had learnt from him (see figure 1), and in a medium that was closely associated with him. The result is a curious hybrid that departs from the conventions of urban topography that Canaletto passed on to a generation of younger British artists whilst also demonstrating the influence that his draughtsmanship had on Girtin at this time. As in the case of the monochrome views of the nearby ruins of the Savoy Hospital (TG0368), which Girtin also depicted for Monro, there is therefore a powerful synergy between the subject (a riverside view) and an artist (Canaletto) whose work was much appreciated by his patron and that, indeed, was available for study in a collection that shared the same Thames-side location.

(?) 1796

A Panoramic View of the Thames from the Adelphi Terrace, Section Three: Westminster Bridge to York Stairs


1795 - 1796

An Exterior View of Part of the Ruins of the Savoy Hospital


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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