Samuel Scott

A Sunset, with a View of Nine Elms


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Samuel Scott c.1702–1772
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 515 × 959 mm
frame: 702 × 1121 × 100 mm
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1970


The present picture is probably identifiable with a painting sold by Samuel Scott at auction in April 1765 as a 'Sun Set, with a View of Nine Elms' together with its pendant 'A Morning, with a View of Cuckold's Point' (N 05450) (Tate 1988, p.193).

Nine Elms is situated on the south bank of the Thames, just to the west of Vauxhall, an area currently occupied by New Covent Garden Market and Nine Elms Lane. The view chosen by Scott therefore looks west towards Battersea, and the evening sun. Here the river runs in a straight line directly west. In the foreground of the picture, at the extreme left, is presumed to be Nine Elms pier. The tall trees behind may be identified as the very elms after which the area was named. At the extreme right on the horizon, beyond the windmills one can make out the tower of a church, probably St Mary's, Battersea.

Samuel Scott's earliest known marine paintings, which date from the mid-1720s, were highly influenced by the Dutch painter Willem van de Velde the Younger (1633-1707). Although he was later also inspired by the example of the Venetian Antonio Canaletto (1697-1768), he remained wedded to Dutch traditions of landscape painting, as the present picture reveals. It is not known precisely when he painted this picture, although it may have been around 1761 when he is documented as having sold a version of its pendant.

The dimensions and subject of the picture, which is comparatively long and narrow, suggest that both it and its companion were made as 'overdoors', works which were designed specifically to be mounted over doors, as part of a decorative scheme. Although Scott made numerous similar works as overdoors and overmantels (to hang above mantelpieces), the present pendants are the only known ones in which the artist has deliberately contrasted two times of the day, as well as two distinct areas of the river.

The whereabouts of the present picture was unknown for over 160 years when it was sold by auction in 1927 as 'The Thames at Battersea', together with its pendant, then called 'The Thames at Deptford'. At that point the works were sold separately, the present work being acquired by the Tate Gallery in 1970, reuniting it with its pendant, which had been presented to the National Gallery in 1944 and transferred to the Tate Gallery in 1953.

Further reading:
Richard Kingzett, 'A Catalogue of the Works of Samuel Scott', Walpole Society 1980-1982, vol. 48, 1982, pp.76-77, plate 28b
Elizabeth Einberg and Judy Egerton, The Age of Hogarth. British Painters born 1675-1709, Tate Gallery 1988, pp.193-6, reproduced in colour

Martin Postle
June 2001

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Display caption

This Thames scene forms a pair with the view of Cuckold’s Point, also on the south bank of the river. Nine Elms is the name given to the area now dominated by the New Covent Garden Market, which is on the opposite bank from Tate Britain, to the west of Vauxhall Bridge.

The view probably shows the Nine Elms pier; the trees in the background are presumably the tall elms that gave the area its name. Scott appears to have taken an interest in the more rural stretches of the Thames after he bought a country retreat at Twickenham in 1749.

Gallery label, July 2004

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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,; 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

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