Catalogue entry

T01235 A Sunset, with a View of Nine Elms c.1750–60

Canvas 515×960 (20 1/4×37 3/4)
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1970
PROVENANCE Probably the artist's sale, Langford's 4 April 1765 (56);...; William Hartman, sold Curtis & Henson 14 June 1927 (411) bt Pawsey & Payne; Knoedler 1927; Gooden & Fox May 1945, from whom bt Stanley A. Kirsch 1945; by descent to his daughter, Mrs Noelle Woodford, from whom bt 1970
EXHIBITED The Shock of Recognition, Mauritshuis, The Hague (44, repr.) and Tate Gallery 1971 (42, repr.); Guildhall Art Gallery 1972 (41); Look Alike: Themes and Variations in Art, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1982 (5, with Jan van Goyen, ‘Dutch River Scene’, coll. National Gallery, Scotland)
LITERATURE Hilda F. Finberg, ‘Samuel Scott’, Burlington Magazine, LXXXI, 1942, p.201, pl.la; Kingzett 1982, pp.76–7 (C, p.77), pl.28b

The titles given above to N05450 and T01235 are based on the assumption that the paintings are identifiable as the companion pieces sold at Scott's sale in 1765 (55, ‘A Morning, with a View of Cuckold's Point’, and 56, ‘Its Companion, a Sun Set, with a View of Nine Elms’). The two paintings appeared as consecutive lots in the Curtis and Henson sale of 1927, in which they were entitled ‘The Thames at Deptford’ (N05450) and ‘The Thames at Battersea’ (T01235), but were later sold separately by Knoedler. The Tate Gallery's acquisition of T01235 in 1970 reunited the pair.

Both Cuckold's Point and Nine Elms are on the south bank of the Thames. Cuckold's Point marks a sharp bend of the river a little below the parish church of St Mary, Rotherhithe; beyond it stretches Limehouse Reach. Nine Elms is the name given to the area now most conspicuously dominated by (the new) Covent Garden Market. Since the banks of the Thames have been greatly altered at both Cuckold's Point and Nine Elms during the last two centuries, and no accurate visual record of either during the eighteenth century would appear to be extant, the evidence for these identifications must remain circumstantial. A number of features in the pictures do, however, strongly support the association. The morning and evening effects specified in Scott's 1765 titles are clearly visible in N05450 and T01235, Cuckold's Point being seen in a silvery morning light and Nine Elms in an evening glow. Furthermore, the identity of N05450 as a view of Cuckold's Point can be established with some certainty since the unusual feature which gained the location its name, a post surmounted by a pair of horns, is included. Other parts of the picture, in particular the stairs, ferry, timber-yards and distant dock, also coincide with what is known of the appearance of Cuckold's Point at this time (see Harold Adshead, ‘Cuckold's Point’, The Port of London Monthly, XXIX, 1954, pp.197–9; some impression of this part of the river can also be gained from Rocque's Map of London, 1746).

Similarly, it is reasonable to suppose that T01235 represents Nine Elms pier. The large trees in the background are presumably the tall elms which gave the area its name. The church in the distance is probably St Mary's, Battersea.

Scott, whose paintings reveal a strong feeling for tonal effects, often included references to weather and light conditions in the titles of his pictures. N05450 and T01235 seem, however, to be the only works in which he specifically contrasted different times of day.

Scott appears to have taken an interest in Dutch-inspired riverside scenes of a semi-rural nature after his acquisition of a country retreat at Twickenham in 1749. Another version of N05450, in a private English collection (Kingzett 1982, pp.76–7, B), is documented as one of three Thames views bought from Scott in 1761; N05450 and T01235 may date from about the same time.

Kingzett notes that a drawing, presumably for the subject of N05450, was included on the first day of Scott's studio sale on 12 January 1773 (57, ‘Two, a View of Greenwich Hospital and 1 of Cuckold's Point’). This was probably the pencil and grey wash drawing for the buildings and the beached rowing-boat in the right-hand half of the picture, now in the Huntington Collection (fig.51; Kingzett 1982, pp.105–6, D III, p.27c). An ink and wash drawing of ‘Four Men Careening the Hull of a Boat with Another Bringing Faggots for their Fire’, in the South London Art Gallery, is a study for the men working on the beached boat (fig.52; Kingzett 1982, p.97, D 90, pl.27b).

Kingzett also notes (p.77) that lot 74 among the drawings in the studio sale of 1773 included ‘I near Chelsea’, which could perhaps have been a drawing for T01235, but is now untraced.

Published in:
Elizabeth Einberg and Judy Egerton, The Age of Hogarth: British Painters Born 1675-1709, Tate Gallery Collections, II, London 1988