William Havell

The Thames near Moulsford


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William Havell 1782–1857
Oil paint on card
Support: 482 × 623 mm
frame: 655 × 800 × 72 mm
Purchased 1982

Display caption

Havell, who was a native of Reading, produced numerous watercolours and oils of Thames Valley subjects from 1805 onwards. At this time he was a great admirer of Turner, who carried out his own campaign of oil sketching on the Thames in that year. One of Havell's on-the-spot sketches can be seen in Room 5. This painting of the Thames near Moulsford, which lies between Goring and Wallingford, is more likely to have been executed in the studio.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry


Oil on board laid on panel 19 × 24 1/2 (482 × 623)
Inscribed ‘WHAVELL 1807’ b.r.

Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) 1982

Prov: ...; anon. sale, Christie's 22 March 1968 (128) £178.50 bt Barclay; ...; Antique Hypermarket, Kensington, where bt c.1971 by Martyn Gregory and sold 1972 to Felicity Owen, from whom bt through Spink & Son Ltd by the Tate Gallery
Exh: Landscape in Britain c. 1750–1850, Tate Gallery, November 1973–February 1974 (251, repr.); William Havell 1782–1857, Spink & Son Ltd, November–December 1981, Reading Museum & Art Gallery, January–February 1982, Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, March–April 1982 (51, repr.)

The view is identified in the catalogue of the 1981–2 Havell exhibition as looking downstream near Moulsford, close to the old Havell family home of Sowbury. Moulsford lies north-west of Reading, between Goring and Wallingford. Havell was a native of Reading but does not appear to have been especially active as a painter in the Thames Valley until about 1805: tours of Wales in 1802 and 1803 had supplied him with much of the material for his earlier work. The Tate Gallery oil sketch of ‘Caversham Bridge’, dated 1805, is one of his first Thames works. During the following years he exhibited numerous watercolours of the area at the newly founded Society of Painters in Water Colours and in 1807 an oil painting of Reading Abbey at the Royal Academy (Reading Museum & Art Gallery). T03393 was presumably painted later the same year.

Both ‘Reading Abbey’ and ‘The Thames near Moulsford’ owe something to the example of J.M.W. Turner, whom Havell greatly admired at this time. The former painting is reminiscent in particular of Turner's ‘Windsor Castle from the Thames’ of c. 1805 (T03870 below), of which a watercolour copy by Havell exists. Havell was doubtless influenced in his choice and treatment of subjects by Turner's work on the Thames but other artists were also active there in the early years of the century and Havell's friend William Delamotte was painting comparable river scenes on the Isis in 1805–6 (see Louis Hawes, Presences of Nature, New Haven 1982, pls.58, 61).

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986

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