Water Colours: Some Paintings Inspired By The River Thames

c.1862, Walter Greaves, “Hammersmith Bridge on Boat-race Day”, Tate London.

9 February 2018

Tim Koch mixes oil and water.

One of the many joys of Peter Mallory’s recent three-part post (based on his presentation to the 2017 Rowing History Conference) titled 17 August 1829: A Singular Day on the Thames Tideway was his use of carefully researched works of art to illustrate it – though, as Peter is both a rowing historian and an art history major, this should not be too surprising. Anyone who enjoyed these images as much as I did will be interested in a series of blog posts by the successful modern artist, Poul Webb, in which he reproduces paintings and etchings inspired by the Thames between 1650 and 1995. Poul divided this span of nearly 350 years into six periods and, below, I include a link to each under an example of a work of the time. Some pictures show rowing boats, some do not, but all include the ‘liquid history’ that is the River Thames.

Canaletto, “A View of Greenwich from the River”, Tate London, c.1750-52. Part 1, 1650 – 1805. Link.
William Anderson “Merchant ships and Indiamen lying off the Isle of Dogs with smaller vessels in the river and Greenwich Hospital on the Opposite Bank”, Private Collection, before 1837. Part 2, 1806 – 1860. Link.
Walter Greaves, “Chelsea Regatta”, Manchester City Galleries, 1863-68. Part 3, 1860 – 1875. Link.
Charles Napier Hemy, “Old Putney Bridge”, Manchester City Galleries, 1882. Part 4, 1876 – 1903. Link.
Norman Garstin, “Battersea Bridge”, York Museums Trust, before 1926. Part 5, 1903 – 1938. Link.
Christopher Nevinson, “Barges on the Thames”, Manchester City Art Galleries, before 1946. Part 6, 1940 – 1995. Link.



  1. Great stuff, Tim. I am especially taken by Walter Greaves, a fascinating guy with a heartbreaking story, and about his painting, “Chelsea Regatta”, quite possibly the portrayal of the last iteration of a regatta of long standing, painted just before the construction of the Chelsea Embankment which buried the Adam & Eve Tavern. As I described in my posting, such local regattas were dying out at mid-century as the need for watermen decreased and as the river was transformed by embankments, pollution and steamboats. As shown in the painting, the steamboat wharf was already crowding the the racing boats into a narrow corridor.

    Hope to visit the Chelsea Library and carry out further research on one of my next trips to London.

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