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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 6 – From Blackfriars Bridge to Southwark Bridge

The walk resumes on the south side of the river, just before Blackfriars Railway Bridge. The original bridge was opened in 1864 for the Chatham and Dover line and this is handsomely commemorated on the original buttress adjacent to the riverside walkway. The cast iron columns, which are now painted a rusty pink, remain and the arches of the later bridge now carry the new Blackfriars Railway Station, still under construction at the time of writing. There is now a new entrance to the station on the south side of the river. The footpath continues under the bridge and you will now see the chimney of the old Bank Power Station rising before you as well as a distant view of the Shard. The first structure is now the home of Tate Modern, a temple dedicated to modern art, the second a temple dedicated to something else entirely! On the other side of the river there is an impressive view of St. Paul’s rising above buildings of rather less architectural merit. The spires and towers of several other churches struggle to be seen above these developments.

On the right is to be found the Bankside Gallery which is home to the Royal Watercolour Society and the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers and this is always worth a brief diversion. Now walk beyond the Founders Arms to the green open space with its attractive plantation of silver birch trees in front of Tate Modern. At a point opposite the main entrance and just before the Millennium footbridge, pause and look across the river and you will see the view captured in Henri le Sidaner’s St. Paul’s from the River: Morning Sun in Winter, 1906–07[25]. A lyrical evocation of the scene in the pointilist style.

From almost exactly the same spot, at almost exactly the same time, Derain sketched the view which he later developed into St. Paul’s Cathedral from the Thames, 1906–07[26]. It is interesting to speculate if the two artists bumped into one another and if so what they thought of each other’s efforts – chalk and cheese come to mind!

The Millennium Bridge now provides a pedestrian crossing to the north side of the river and a splendid approach to the cathedral has been created affording impressive views of this sublime building. However, the walk continues along the south bank and a little further along Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is reached. This is an authentic recreation of the sixteenth century building and the driving force behind the project was Sam Wanamaker, the American actor and director. Regretably he died before the theatre’s completion but his legacy is a unique venue where the Bard’s works are performed in much the same way as they would have been 400 years ago.

Continue on towards Southwark Bridge and take the underpass before ascending the stairs to road level. Now cross the bridge to the far side. The next painting to be considered is Derain’s Barges on the Thames (Cannon Street Bridge) 1906–07[27] but it is difficult to find the exact spot where he positioned himself to get this view. When standing on the bridge near the north side we seem to be too high up and by descending the steps to the riverside walk a better view is obtained. However, to get the alignment of Tower Bridge in the distance it is more likely that he was at water level on one of the barges mentioned in the title of the painting. We shouldn’t worry too much as Derain almost certainly worked from a quick sketch and possibly moved the elements about to suit his composition.

It is at this point that a detour can be taken to visit the Guildhall Art Gallery which is about ten minutes walk away. This houses the collection of the City of London with works by Jan Griffier, Samuel Scott, William Marlow, George Vicat Cole and John Atkinson Grimshaw, all of whom are mentioned in this article. There is also the opportunity to visit the remains of London’s Roman Amphitheatre.
By clicking on most of the images you will be taken directly to the appropriate website to view the image at a better resolution.