Sunday, June 11, 2017

19th and 20th Century Paintings of Thames River Bridges

Thames River Bridges
Artists have sought inspiration from the Thames River and its bridges for hundreds of years. However, beginning in the 19th century the atmosphere and the light (and human emotions) became the main subject of these 'bridge' paintings.

In a painting by J.W.M. Turner from 1835 shown above, the Waterloo Bridge can barely be seen due to the thick smoke and haze that shrouds the river. Turner excelled at these paintings of light reflected by water and obscured by clouds.

Artists from other nations also sought inspiration on the banks of the Thames. The American artist James Whistler gave his paintings musical names to emphasize the compositional aspects of paintings such as his 'Nocturne: Blue and Gold' (for the Old Battersea Bridge) from 1875.
At the same time that Whistler was painting the Battersea Bridge, impressionists such as Claude Monet were painting the nearby Westminster Bridge (shown below).
The American impressionist Winslow Homer made a watercolor of the same bridge in 1881 (shown below).
Just a few minutes downstream is the Charing Cross (also called the Hungerford) Bridge. Another impressionist, Camille Pissarro made a painting of this bridge in 1890 (shown below).
Starting in 1900 Monet did a whole series of paintings of the Charing Cross (Hungerford) Bridge wreathed in fog (shown below).
A few years after Monet, the Fauve artist Andre Derain made his own series of paintings of the Charing Cross (Hungerford) Bridge in bright colors (shown below).
A photo I took of the Charing Cross (Hungerford) Bridge (in 1990) is shown below. However, in 2002 narrow white pedestrian bridges were built on each side of the Hungerford Bridge, altering its appearance.
There are several websites that feature paintings of Thames River (and other) bridges including an excellent site by Poul Webb. I may devote a future blog to some of the other rivers and their bridges that have attracted artists.

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