Sunday, 10 June 2012

Thomas Rowlandson - Kew Palace and the River Thames

This watercolour painting of Kew Palace by Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) includes the River Thames in the foreground.

Kew Palace by Thomas Rowlandson
watercolour, 11.2" x 16.8" English School; Late 18th - early 19th century
Kew Palace, seen across the river; a boatman steadying his boat for three stout persons to enter it
Kew Palace | Rowlandson, Thomas | V&A Collection

Thomas Rowlandson is an English artist who was well known as a caricaturist in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  He was much less well known as a landscape artist per se - however he did use them in the background of his figurative work.
Thomas Rowlandson (1756/57-1827) was one of the most brilliant draughtsmen of his day, and is best known for his satirical and humorous figure drawings. Many of his drawings have a topographical element, which serves as a backdrop for the various human encounters depicted. However, Rowlandson also made a small number of purely topographical viewsV&A
Rowlandson also produced the satirical book titled Tour of Dr Syntax in Search of the Picturesque (more of this in later posts) which was a satire on the work of William Gilpin and his Three Essays on Picturesque Beauty.

Kew Palace

For me the above painting illustrates how valuable landscape paintings can be as historical records.

I looked at this Kew Palace and did not recognise it from the one I've visited at Kew Gardens.  It turns out that the building called Kew Palace today is the fourth such Palace.

Kew Palace
Kew Palace 
from The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction,
Vol. 10, No. 275, September 29, 1827
The one in the watercolour is the third Palace - built at the west end of Kew Green to the castellated design of King George III.  It was started in 1802, but was much criticised and never occupied and was demolished by his son George IV in 1828.

The painting is also interesting as it records the use of pleasure boats on this area of the Thames in the time of George III.  I'm not sure I've ever seen a sail boat on this part of the Thames - although competitive rowing boats can now be seen there very frequently.

Given Rowlandson's preference for satire, one wonders whether the very portly gentleman in the foreground might possibly be an allusion to the Prince Regent/future George IV.

Scene on a Thames-side towing-path

This next watercolour is also of the Thames.  I suspect it's in a similar area because of the width of the river

Scene on a Thames-side towing-path (undated) by Thomas Rowlandson
reed pen and ink and watercolour on a wove paper, 18cm x 27cm
Scene on a Thames-side towing-path | Rowlandson, Thomas | V&A Collection

This is a view of the River Thames, with a vessel on the water and a team of horses on the riverbank. The V&A record cites how Rowlandson tackled such topographical views
Rowlandson repeated drawings for sale by working up and colouring a counterproof of an original pen drawing. In this case the original has itself been worked up, strengthened with pencil and coloured. The deception was frequently increased by counterproofing the original pencil lines, thus conveying the impression of spontaneous sketches following a rough outline.
(J. Hayes, Rowlandson watercolours and drawings, 1972, pp. 41, 42.)’

1 comment:

Jose Sánchez said...



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