My current research focuses on the interconnected careers of Samuel Scott and William Marlow, two 18th-century artists known for their painted views of London and the River Thames but whose contribution to British art remains relatively unexplored.
Following a theme from my PhD thesis (‘A Forest of Masts: The Image of the River Thames in the Long Eighteenth Century’), this project is centred around paintings of the Thames by Scott and Marlow and their contemporaries. I am interested in how representations of London’s river appear to form a distinct category within eighteenth-century visual culture and how artists set out to capture the significance of the burgeoning port city. For example, Scott and Marlow both produced London views featuring such improvements as the building of Westminster Bridge and the construction of the Adelphi Terrace. I will consider how this magnificence is sometimes set against tantalising glimpses of workaday maritime activity in the wharves and dockyards.
Samuel Scott was described by George Vertue as among London’s ‘most elevated men in art’ and by the 1730s he was England’s leading marine artist whose associates included Thomas Hudson, George Lambert, Horace Walpole, Marcellus Laroon and William Hogarth; his friendship with the latter enshrined in Ebenezer Forrest’s famous account of ‘The Five Days’ Peregrination’. Evidence of Scott’s contemporary reputation beyond his involvement with the Society of Artists, Vauxhall Gardens and the Foundling Hospital is evidenced by the prestigious commissions from clients that included Sir Robert Walpole, the East India Company, the Duke of Bedford and Admiral Vernon. My research will closely follow the shape of Scott’s career through a close reading of key works and the historical significance of the events they represent. Furthermore, research into Scott’s biography will seek to shine light on how his relationships with fellow artists and patrons influenced his choice of subjects, from famous naval engagements to Thames views.
William Marlow’s tutelage under Scott in his Covent Garden studio in the 1750s extended into a lifelong friendship and both artists eventually moved to the fashionable upriver Thames location of Twickenham. I will examine his career from membership of the St Martin’s Lane Academy, friendships with Sawrey Gilpin and Joshua Reynolds, and promotion to Vice President of the Society of Artists. Above all, I will follow Marlow’s extensive travels through France and Italy to ascertain how his experiences abroad relate to his celebrated views of the Thames.