Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Around Antwerpen School of Printmaking (VI)

Emile Antoine Verpilleux (III).
British painter, portraitist,
woodengraver, illustrator and
Modern Printmaker

 Thames view towards Charing cross (Hungerford) railway bridge.
Under Waterloo Bridge

Verpilleux' view of River Thames is a remarkable achievement in many ways. It's accurate, it's panoramic, has great colours towards a setting sun. And it's without any equivalent. The broad waters dramatically rushing towards the viewer. Again: remember this is not a painting but a woodblock print. On the far left South Bank: the bell tower of County Hall. The Victoria Tower and Clock Tower are in the centre. The two towers of White Hall Court and Cleopatra's Needle on the Victoria Embankment on the right.
Were the artist sat.

To emphazise his very low view point he shows a glimpse of one of those caracteristic Victorian lanterns on the Victoria embankment wall above him. Adding yet another element to the already very strong perspective.

Would it have been a painting and more known it would have been discussed and analysed by art experts all over the world. It would have hung in a prominent Museum on a prominent spot. But it's not. Not a painting, not well known, nor on display in any museum. Not even in London. A shame !
This above birds eye view of what Verpilleux is showing us from the centre of his print: Victoria Tower (the little yellow dot is where he sat.
Adelphi , Cecile and Savoy Hotels, around 1905,
 the pontoon  l.r. seen from Waterloo bridge.
Verpilleux choose a dramatic low view point. As low as he could find. On the surface of River Thames on a pontoon build in 1869 (it's no longer there) and in front of the Savoy Hotel and practically under Waterloo bridge
Thus, cleverly enabling him, placing the horizon and Westminster Bridge below the railway bridge with its caracteristic domed pillars and steaming engine driving towards Charing Cross Station. 

It is possibly the most depicted, painted and photographed London panorama.
View from the Cecile Hotel.
But there's really no equivalent to Verpilleux' print showing the greatness of River Thames. 
The only modern prints I know with a similiar scene and similar low perspective is "Pont Royal" with river Seine in Paris by German woodblock printmaker Heine Rath (1873-1923) 
and etcher Luigi Kasimir (1879-1937) with river Elbe and Hamburg.

There are many great and famous paintings of this grand panorama. Most but a handfull of artists however choose a higher position either from the Victoria Embankment, the bridge crossing or high up from the Savoy or Cecile (no longer there) Hotels. Painters, etchers and photographers.
From this perspective Claude Monet 1903 clearly choose higher grounds for this and countless other views in changing weather and atmosphere.

Here are some examples of the famous railway bridge as seen from Waterloo bridge. Massive White Hall Court dominating on the right.
French Impressionist Camille Pissaro (1830-1903): view from Waterloo Bridge (build 1865). Probably painted 1871, the year he visited London
American Impressionist Frederick Childe Hassam (1859-1935), 1929
Czech artist Frantisek Tavik Simon (1877-1942), one of the finest European painters and graphic artists of the xxth century, visited Antwerp and lived in Paris 1904-1914. This is his sketch of Thames tugboats and the railway bridge.
Andre Derain (1880-1954) 1906

And contemporary painter Claire Randall stood right above where Verpilleux sat. Restored RS Queen Mary (a restaurant) now moored at this location.

Under Waterloo Bridge in 1924 around the time Verpilleux sat there.  One of my favorite artists Dutch painter and etcher Willem Witsen (1877-1942) had a fascination for this spot too around 1905 (below). He made several paintings.

From the great many wonderful pictures I found researching Verpilleux' print these I cannot withhold sharing here: 
The railway bridge and the Victoria Embankment at night seen from the other (West) side, from Westminster Bridge. White Hall Court and Charing Cross station on the left, a 1904 photogravure (click!) by William Hyde (could find no biographical data). I will come back to him later. 

And Whistler's friend, American Joseph Penell (1857-1926) had a fascination for this bridge too: "under Charing Cross Bridge" and "Westminster and railway bridge" seen from Waterloo Bridge' South Bank.

In next posting I'll show a selection of the more celebrated and popular London and Thames impressionist views I found researching this article to emphazise the importance of Verpilleux' woodblock print. Impressionist views from the Grand Hotels on the Victoria Embankment between Waterloo Bridge and the Adelphi Terrace.

This posting has been my most extensive, time consuming and laborous contribution to this Blog so far. Leaving feedback and comments is always welcomed.


  1. prachtige blogpost, dank je wel.

  2. Dank je, je reactie wordt erg op prijs gesteld.