A View of Walton Bridge


Dulwich Picture Gallery

Dulwich Picture Gallery

When travel became difficult for the English Grand Tourists, and demand for his work in Venice fell off, Canaletto came to England in 1746. He stayed for nine years.

This is one of nine works executed for the rich republican and eccentric recluse, Thomas Hollis. Hollis is pictured in the centre in yellow with his friend Thomas Brand, his servant Francesco Giovanni, and his dog Malta. The weather is unusually changeable for Canaletto: he has given the scene the immediacy associated with Dutch painters such as Jacob van Ruisdael. The bridge appears more curved and wider than it actually was.

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  • Title: A View of Walton Bridge
  • Date: 1754
  • Physical Dimensions: w764 x h487 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil
  • Work Notes: A drawing in the Paul Mellon collection and an engraving by A. Walker both seem to relate to a similar painting of 1755 also in the Mellon collection. According to a catalogue of the Hollis collection, Hollis is depicted in the foreground with his friend Thomas Brand, his servant Francesco Giovannini and his dog Malta. Canaletto appears to have depicted himself seated sketching on a low stool and wearing a hat and long gown.
  • Work Nationality: Italian
  • Support: Canvas
  • Provenance: Painted for T. Hollis, 1754; bequethed by him to T. Brand (later Brand-Hollis), 1774; bequethed by him to Rev. J. Disney, 1804; then to John Disney and Edgar Disney; London, Christie's, Anon. (Mrs E. Disney) sale, 3 May 1884, lot 130. Bt Denison; C. Becket Denison; sold Christie's, 13 Jun. 1885, lot 858. Bt H. Yates Thompson for George Murray Smith (1859-1919); lent to Dulwich by Mrs George Murray in February 1914 and presented by Miss E. Murray Smith in 1917.
  • Further Information: "Canaletto is best-known for his sparkling views of Venice, done for the tourist market, but here Canaletto's view is a matter-of-fact record of modern life in the Home Counties of England. The bridge over the river Thames at Walton had been constructed four years before this painting, to a daringly high-tech design. A coach crosses it; a boat lowers its mast to pass underneath the span. Thomas Hollis, the Whig MP who ordered the painting, has himself included in the foreground, along with a friend, a servant and a dog. This is a portrait of a specific person and a specific place; Canaletto even inserts himself as the artist on the stool, faithfully recording what is in front of him. But Canaletto finds more in England than an efficient infrastructure. The dark green of the ground, the complex grey cloud-mass with evening light breaking across it; these subtly-observed effects convey exactly the smell of damp grass in the air during a changeable English summer. The atmosphere is heavy, but the touch is light and decorative, the paint forming tiny blobs and trails like Murano glass. The wooden bridge was built in 1750 by Samuel Dicker MP whose house is one of those on the opposite bank; it was replaced with a brick and stone bridge in 1780. According to an inscription on the reverse of the original canvas, DPG600 was painted in London in 1754 for Thomas Hollis, one of Canaletto's last major English patrons. The subject was repeated in a painting and drawing (both at the Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven); these show a long, raised causeway leading to the bridge, which is omitted in DPG600."
  • Artist: Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal)
  • Acquisition Method: Murray Smith, Miss E. (Gift, 1917)


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