Samuel Scott

An Arch of Old Westminster Bridge

c.1750

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 270 x 397 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1886
Reference
N01223

Display caption

Scott was primarily a painter of marine and river views, especially of the Thames. The latter were inspired by those of Canaletto who, like Scott, was interested in the construction of old Westminster Bridge. Construction began in 1739, but Scott's paintings of it were probably done in 1750 just before it was opened to traffic. This particular oil is one of five versions. Its small size suggests that it is possibly the first Scott painted, worked up from pencil studies made on the spot, to test ideas he had for his much larger and monumental work. Like Canaletto, Scott has included a touch of humour: on top of the balustrade a construction worker is taking a well-earned break.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

N01223 An Arch of Westminster Bridge c1750

Oil on canvas 270×397 (10 1/8×15 3/4)
Purchased by the National Gallery (Clarke Fund) 1886; transferred to the Tate Gallery 1949
PROVENANCE Probably the artist's sale, Langford's 4 April 1765 (13, ‘A small view of part of Westminster Bridge’);...; Henry Graves & Co. until 1886, when bt by the National Gallery
EXHIBITED 18th Century Painting, East Kent and Folkestone Art Centre, Folkestone, 1967 (22); Views of the Thames from Greenwich to Windsor by Eighteenth Century Artists working in England, Marble Hill House 1968 (11); Royal Westminster, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, London 1982 (192)
LITERATURE Kingzett 1982, pp.62–4, version C, p.63 (wrongly given as on panel)

This is the smallest of five versions of this subject, listed under T01193, q.v. for an account of the construction of the bridge and Scott's interest in it.

N01223 may be Scott's first version in oils of this subject, which evolved from pencil studies made on the spot (see below). Like versions B and C, it fails to depict the underside of the right-hand arch, a failure corrected in versions D and E. Comparison with T01193 (version E) shows that in that picture Scott also modified the too-prominent dome on the turret at the extreme left of N01223 into a flat (or flatter) shape. In N01223 the group of masons about to celebrate the apparently imminent conclusion of their work includes three rather than two figures; one has perched a wicker basket (? for tools) on the ledge of the parapet, a rather intrusive detail which Scott omitted in T01193.


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