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A Refuge for Genius
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In Monet’s Footsteps
An American in London
Lesser-known, Home-grown
Self-guided walk - Part 1
Self-guided walk - Part 2
Self-guided walk - Part 3
Self-guided walk - Part 4
Self-guided walk - Part 5
Self-guided walk - Part 6
Self-guided walk - Part 7
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SISLEY by the Thames
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Part 2 – Optional extension to Lambeth Bridge and Tate Britain

At this point it is possible to walk further upstream along the Albert Embankment as far as Lambeth Bridge and then across the river to Millbank where Tate Britain is located. This is one of the world’s finest galleries which surveys the history of British art from 1500 to the present day and also houses a major collection of the works of JMW Turner. On the left are the extensive buildings of St. Thomas’ Hospital which has occupied this site since the sixteenth century, although the present edifice is a mixture of Victorian and twentieth century construction. Just before the bridge is reached, Lambeth Palace comes into view to the left, across the busy road. This is the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury and it has a fine Tudor gatehouse. There is a memorial to the wartime exploits of the Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.) and it close to this spot that André Derain must have positioned himself to sketch the view across the river.

He produced at least three paintings from here and one of these, The Palace of Westminster, 1906–07[8] shows the buildings rendered in rather sombre tones, but vivid colours, so often associated with this artist, are used in the treatment of the water in the foreground. In many ways this is a more naturalistic image than many others in the series but it is still interesting to compare it with a work by George Vivat Cole, a British artist with a rather more conventional approach. 

To stand where the artist stood, climb the steps to the southern end of the bridge. The finished painting, also entitled The Palace of Westminster, 1892[9], is almost the same view although the artist includes the enormous bulk of the Victoria Tower which dominates the image. The towers of Westminster Abbey are also evident in the background. Lying alongside the wharves are sailing barges, often known as ‘stackies’, which brought hay into London to feed the city’s enormous horse population and then carried the resulting manure down river to the market gardens of Kent and Essex. Of course all of that has now gone, replaced by the Victoria Tower Gardens and their tall London plane trees which obscure much of the view today. The commercial activity on the river is now restricted to the comings and goings of pleasure boats. It was from almost exactly this vantage point that Childe Hassam painted another of his impressionistic works, Houses of Parliament, Early Evening 1898.

Cross over the bridge to the north side and you will get close to the view that David Roberts had when he painted The Houses of Parliament from Millbank, 1861[10]. The original oil painting is now in the Museum of London but a preliminary oil sketch is housed in the Palace of Westminster. This was painted before the bridge was constructed and it is not possible to get exactly the same view especially as the bustling commercial activity in the foreground has all been swept away and replaced by gardens and mature trees. This is a pleasant retreat from the ever-present roar of traffic and there is an impressive monument commemorating the abolition of slavery and also Rodin’s The Burghers of Calais.

It is now only a short walk along Millbank to Tate Britain, a walk that will be rewarded with a stunning collection of British painting, some by artists that are referred to in this article.

By clicking on most of the images you will be taken directly to the appropriate website to view the image at a better resolution.