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London: Thames & Canal Scenes Gallery

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Lute playing Keeper of the heads, London Bridge. 1848 (engraving) Featured London: Thames & Canal Scenes Image

Lute playing Keeper of the heads, London Bridge. 1848 (engraving)

3557557 Lute playing Keeper of the heads, London Bridge. 1848 (engraving) by English School, (19th century); Private Collection; (add.info.: The southern gatehouse of London Bridge became the scene of one of London's most notorious sights -- a display of the severed heads of traitors, impaled on pikes and dipped in tar and boiled to preserve them against the elements. The head of William Wallace was the first to appear on the gate, in 1305, starting a tradition that was to continue for another 355 years. Other famous heads on pikes included those of Jack Cade in 1450, Thomas More in 1535, Bishop John Fisher in the same year, and Thomas Cromwell in 1540. In 1598, a German visitor to London, Paul Hentzner, counted over 30 heads on the bridge;); Prismatic Pictures

© Prismatic Pictures / Bridgeman Images

Figure Court, c.1720 (oil on canvas) Featured London: Thames & Canal Scenes Image

Figure Court, c.1720 (oil on canvas)

1781579 Figure Court, c.1720 (oil on canvas) by English School, (18th century); 121x211 cm; Royal Hospital Chelsea, London, UK; (add.info.: Slightly oblique vertical view of Figure Court from the West wing at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, showing elegant figures at ground level. Inscribed with a presentation inscription at lower centre.); English, out of copyright

© Bridgeman Images

Study for Deserted - a Foundling (oil on canvas) Featured London: Thames & Canal Scenes Image

Study for Deserted - a Foundling (oil on canvas)

2956891 Study for Deserted - a Foundling (oil on canvas) by Holl, Frank (1845-88); 55.25x76.2 cm; Private Collection; (add.info.: The scene is Bankside, the London docks. Like Dore and Fildes, Holl used to prowl around London in search of subjects. One day, with an artist friend (CE Johnson), he saw a baby abandoned by its mother, and discovered by a policeman. He made an engraving of the scene for The Graphic magazine, in which the commentary ran: The wretched mother, evidently the woman leaning on the post, had left it carefully wrapped up, hoping that someone would find it and cherish it. As for herself, she had intended to end her earthly woes in the dark, sullen river, but the sight of her baby in the arms of the policeman re-arouses her motherly instincts'.
Holl had already achieved some success as a painter before he worked for the Graphic, but the steady income from the magazine was welcome to an artist of precarious means. He benefited from the discipline of working to a deadline. It concentrated his ideas, corrected his tendency to worry at a design and forced him to carry through what he had begun; the mere fact of having to have the block ready to the moment when the Graphic messenger presented himself at the studio door gave him the necessary impetus'. Holl reworked some of his more successful illustrations into Royal Academy pictures. His first Graphic engraving became A Seat in a Railway Station - Third Class (Private Collection) shown at the RA in 1873. Deserted - A Foundling followed in 1874. The exhibited painting is lost, but this oil sketch survives: it has a bravura of touch and vivacity sometimes lacking in Holl's finished paintings and its rich colour reflects the finished work which is known to have been warmer in colour than usual for him, for much of his work has a sooty blackness in the shadows which was often seized upon by critics. Deserted... may well have been a self-conscious attempt to remedy this.
Van Gogh saw and described the engraving: It represents some policemen in their water-proof capes who have picked up a baby exposed among the beams and planks of the Thames embankment. Some inquisitive people are looking on, and in the background one sees the grey silhouette of the town through the mist'. The way he picked out details such as the waterproof capes and the misty silhouette suggest he saw the image as a nostalgic one: of this and other engravings he wrote: When I was looking them over, all my memories of London ten years ago came back to me- when I saw them for the first time; they moved me so deeply that I have been thinking about them ever since, for instance Holl's "The Foundling".... This is a very different approach from that of the English commentators, who read the image in narrative and moral terms. The Graphic having described the story drew from it a conventional message: Those who from weakness, or passion, or a mistaken sense of what is due to an ardent lover yield to such temptations, are sure to be visited with remorse, wretchedness, too often with utter ruin. The man, though generally the chief offender, frequently escapes, as far as his world is concerned, scot-free, while the burden of the sin falls on the feebler partner in his transgression'. Holl's policeman comes across as a father figure of beneficent authority, wrapping the infant in his cape and looking at his bundle, according to The Times, with the eye of a man who has babies of his own, while the woman with a basket looks on with sympathy. The mother writhes in shame and confusion, torn between desperation and motherliness. Thanks to Julian Treuherz.); Photo A© The Maas Gallery, London; English, out of copyright

© The Maas Gallery, London / Bridgeman Images