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Printing the Thames in the 19th century

Introduction
The polluted Thames
Picturing life by the Thames
Whistler’s Thames
Whistler’s print method
Whistler’s contemporaries and followers
Into the 20th century
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Into the 20th century

John Everett (1876-1949)

London Docks.
View full size imageLondon Docks. © NMM

The artist John Everett occupies a unique position in the history of marine painting. He trained at the Slade School of Fine Art with Augustus John and William Orpen.

Encouraged to produce landscapes outdoors, Everett continually experimented with sunlit, brightly coloured stippled brushwork and natural daylight tones and colours combined with spontaneity and informality. This training had a strong influence on Everett’s subsequent seascapes.

After studying briefly at the Académie Julian in Paris, Everett’s life took an unconventional path when he embarked on the first of his 16 sea voyages, painting hundreds of seascapes on each journey.

In the spring of 1918 he was commissioned by the Ministry of Information to produce some drawings and paintings of wartime London docks and the Thames. These were subsequently exhibited in America. In 1923 he went to Paris where he learnt print-making techniques, including etching and aquatints. He produced hundreds of prints based on his oil painting sketches.

River scene showing barges and crane.
View full size imageRiver scene showing barges and crane. © NMM
This painting shows a London dock scene. The crane on the right dominates the scene, shifting a load that hovers above the water. Smoke from the funnels of the boat drifts across the picture, with a sail rising up above it. The dockside buildings are ranged along the back of the picture space. Everett has relied on varying tones to create depth and variety in the picture.

London Bridge from Cannon Street.
View full size imageLondon Bridge from Cannon Street. © NMM

This aquatint shows the view from London Bridge looking down river. Tower Bridge can be seen in the distance. The print evokes the work of W.L. Wyllie in its depiction of bridges and barges on the Thames. 

 

 


James McBey (1883-1959)

Born near Aberdeen, McBey taught himself etching and moved to London whilst still young. During World War I he was appointed an Official War Artist. His work, sometimes picturesque and atmospheric, reveals sensitive draughtsmanship, with light playing on the surface of water.

The Pool, London, January 1914.
View full size imageThe Pool, London, January 1914. © NMM

This shows the Pool of London, from a warehouse near the south end of the Tower Bridge, looking towards warehouses and wharves on the north bank.

Repairing a barge on the foreshore at Bermondsey.
View full size imageRepairing a barge on the foreshore at Bermondsey. © NMM

Here is a view of the south bank of the Thames at Bermondsey, where barges lie on the muddy shore under warehouses.

In the foreground, four men are repairing a barge, while another stands on the deck, working a pump. The buildings are more detailed and ordered than Whistler’s.

 

 

 



Graham Sutherland (1903–1980)

Sutherland, both a painter and print maker, was a major figure in British art. His early graphic work was in etching and he later took to lithography.

Moss's Wharf, Old Greenwich, 1923.
View full size imageMoss's Wharf, Old Greenwich, 1923. © NMM

This work depicts the ramshackle waterfront buildings of R. Moss & Sons, Crane Wharf, 11-13 Crane Street, East Greenwich, immediately east of the Yacht public house, formerly the Yacht Hotel, with the bow of what may be a Dutch sailing barge to the right.

'MOSS'S WHARF' appears on the riverfront wall of the central house, which has two upper floors of disintegrating Regency pattern iron railings. A sign with lettering is partly visible below. On the left flank wall are the words 'OLD ROPE & IRON BOUGHT FOR EXPORT'.

A man, a woman and a girl are visible on the ground floor, wharf level, of the building with a pile of coiled 'junk' rope or hawser. Ladders descend from there to behind a lighter on the river, stretching across the full width of the image.

By the 20th century, artists creating images of the Thames were as concerned with aesthetic considerations as they were with topographical representations.  

Page 7 of 7. Previous page

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Glossary
Aquatint
Bow
Dock
Etching
Lighter
Warehouse
Wharf

Find out more
StoriesWilliam Lionel Wyllie and the Thames
The career and techniques of a prominent Thames artist
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Fact fileWilliam Lionel Wyllie
London river artist
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StoriesPicturing the 18th-century port
How artists interpreted the Thames in the 18th century
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GalleriesJames (Jean-Jaques) Tissot (1836-1902)
Depictions of 19th-century London life observed with a Frenchman’s eye
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National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory GreenwichNew Opportunities Fund 
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