The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Beaduric controlled the area around the present day Battersea, whose name derives from Batrices Ege, or island. Marshes at one time, then market gardens, murders, and Benedict Arnold (buried in the parish church) are what made the place famous. But in this posting, I consider the various artists who flocked to the old Battersea bridge and painted it and the river in their various moods. As usual, I refer to Chris Roberts' lovely book .

James Whistler celebrated the beauty contained in the urban landscape. His Nocturne series had a remarkable influence on later artists. As Lee Parsons said, "These simple pieces offer an affecting synthesis of romance and melancholy that is remarkable for its time and must have thrown open doors to a new world of expression in painting." And yet, he only received the derisory sum of a farthing when he sued the famous critic John Ruskin for libel, after the latter accused him of demanding "two hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public's face". The court clearly thought that despite his witticisms, his work was hardly deserving of the title 'Art', despite his witty repartee when asked if his work was a "correct representation" of Battersea Bridge:
It was not my intent simply to make a copy of Battersea Bridge. The pier in the centre of the picture may not be like the piers of Battersea Bridge. I did not intend to paint a portrait of Battersea Bridge, but only a painting of a moonlight scene. As to what the picture represents, that depends upon who looks at it.

Joseph Turner found the bridge and the Battersea Reach a favoured subject for his work. He painted in the romantic style, with an Italianate sensibility quite at odds with the polluted, swirling and murky Thames. His boatman was the father of Whistler's boatman, Walter Graves, a rather less well-known British painter. I am sad to say here, though, that I am unable to find any of Graves's (or indeed Turner's Thames) paintings readily on the web. This one, on the right, is by Turner, titled Sun Rising Through Vapour: Fishermen cleaning and selling. But are they on the Thames? Who knows?


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