- Museum number
Elvet bridge, Durham; view of the bridge from the bank of the Wear, which flows into the foreground, at the left foreground, a woman on a rock washing items, on the bridge to right, a cluster of gable cottages adjoining other houses in the street, two figures on the further bank under a wall
Watercolour and grey wash, over graphite
- Production date
Height: 203 millimetres
Width: 255 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Two other versions of this watercolour are known, one in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (184 x 266mm, dated 1781, engraved by J C Varrell in Britton's 'Picturesque Antiquities of English Cities',1830, no.61), and another last sold at Christie's, London, 20.x..2003/19 (210 x 260mm). According to Milner, the BM version is a later elaboration of the one in the Ashmolean, possibly as late as the 1790s (see Barbara Milner, 'Thomas Hearne, 1744-1817: A catalogue of his watercolours and drawings in the British Museum', unpublished typescript (MA report for Courtauld Institute), 1983, no. 31).
Etched by Charles Oliver Murray, in the 'Portfolio', Vol XIX (1888).
A view of the bridge from the other side appears in 'A North-East View of the City of Durham', engraved by W. Byrne after Hearne, 1799.
Hearne was one of the leading topographical draughtsmen of his day; in the early 1770s he spent almost four years in the West Indies as draughtsman to the Governor of the Leeward Islands (a view of Antigua is in the British Museum). On his return he devoted himself almost exclusively to British antiquarian subjects and landscape, his most ambitious project being the joint publication with William Byrne of' 'The Antiquities of Great Britain', issued in parts between 1777 and 1806. Newark Castle, drawn in 1777 but not published until 1796, illustrates his power of conveying a sense of scale and grandeur within a small format. 'Elvet Bridge' is a later and more elaborate version of a watercolour dated 1781 (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford), which the artist probably made in the 1790s for one of his patrons, John Henderson, by whose son it was presented to the British Museum. Hearne used watercolour with great delicacy, restricting himself to a limited range of colours - in this case chiefly blue, grey and buff, with an occasional touch of red - and concentrating on tonal values to suggest the glow of light, reflections in water and the varying textures of rough surfaces. This emphasis on tone rather than on colour characterises the work of a number of water-colourists of the period and derives from J.R. Cozens; it was to become a particular feature in the early works of Girtin and Turner, both of whom were influenced by Hearne. His feeling for atmosphere enabled him to transcend the limitations of the topographical genre, and his work was much admired by discerning collectors, in particular Sir George Beaumont and Dr Thomas Monro, the physician and amateur draughtsman who established an informal academy for young artists in his house in the Adelphi.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1934 BM, P&D Gallery, Exhibition of English Art, no315
1981 May-Aug, Nottingham, Castle Museum, 'English Watercolours'
1982 Apr-May, Newcastle, Laing AG, 'The Picturesque Tour', no. 106
1985 Aug-Sept, Bolton AG, 'Thomas Hearne', no. 23
1985, BM, British Landscape Watercolours, no.46
1991 Jan-Mar, Ohio, Cleveland MA, BM English Watercolours, no. 22
1991 Mar-June, N Carolina MA, BM English Watercolours, no. 22
2002 July-Sep, London, Tate Britain, Thomas Girtin
- Associated titles
Associated Title: Portfolio
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number