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Leigh Hatts

Georgian Bankside revealed by Paul Sandby at Royal Academy

The Paul Sandby bicentenary exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts includes a long painting showing Bankside in the late 18th century.

Georgian Bankside revealed by Paul Sandby at Royal Academy
Paul Sandby: View to the west from the gardens of Somerset House, before 1776. Photo © The Trustees of the British Museum
Georgian Bankside revealed by Paul Sandby at Royal Academy
Paul Sandby: View to the east from the gardens of Somerset House, before 1776. Pen, ink and watercolour over graphite Photo © The Trustees of the British Museum

The pen and ink watercolour is called View to the east from the gardens of Somerset House, before 1776. The view is the same as one chosen by Canaletto in 1750 and shows both banks.

Sandby was precise so this work is like a snapshot of the riverside taken early in George III's reign. It is Georgian Bankside. Since there is no Blackfriars Bridge it must be a little earlier than 1776, possibly around 1760.

The extreme left of the painting shows Somerset House whilst on the far right, a few steps away to the viewer in the gallery, is the tower of Christ Church in Blackfriars Road. This was a landmark until the Second World War.

Towards the river, near the end of the main road is a round building which is probably the chapel which stood on the corner of Stamford Street. Further east is Southwark Cathedral.

Another painting showing the view west from Somerset House reveals houses around the southern approach to the ten year old Westminster Bridge.

Sandby is best known for his drawings of Bayswater Road where he lived and Windsor Castle. He also depicted the Thames upstream near Oxford.

The first work in the exhibition is a sketch done on site at the Tower of London.

Sandby's method of working influenced JMW Turner and Thomas Girtin who worked together on the same pictures for a time. The latter was born in Great Suffolk Street in 1775 and at first worked in Borough High Street where he was employed to copy sketches of old churches.

Like Sandby, Girtin too included Southwark Cathedral and Christ Church in a panoramic painting.

Paul Sandby: Picturing Britain is at the Royal Academy of Arts until Sunday 13 June; admission 9 (conc 8).

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