- Museum number
View near a sandpit at Woolwich; a cart approaching the foreground on a track bordered, right and l, by low sandy cliffs topped by trees and other vegetation, to right, a man in a blue tunic walking towards another man seated on its bank, in the background, the sandpit dug in the side of a hill
Bodycolour and watercolour; on three conjoined sheets
- Production date
Height: 363 millimetres
Width: 701 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Stainton 1985
See 1983,1001.4 for curatorial comment
The following text is from K Sloan, 'Noble Art', exh. cat. BM 2000, pp. 140-1:
Although around fifty works by Taverner survive, he did not date any of them so it is difficult to give them a chronology. Like so many other earlier amateur artists of the eighteenth century, only a handful of his oil paintings survive, but the few that do are imaginary compositions in the manner of Dughet or Poelenburgh. However, the existence of a number of large carefully finished watercolour and bodycolour views of real places, like the present work or the ones already noted as purchased by Sandby at the sale after Taverner's death, is an important departure from the activities of any previous artist, amateur or professional.
Although we have concentrated on his more imaginary landscapes, he also made many topographical drawings of a variety of sizes and types. Some are not topographical in the strict sense of the word as they are merely atmospheric evocations of a site, with inscriptions that identify the site but without any obvious features recorded, such as the views from Camberwell and Highgate (Oppé collection, Tate) or the view of a grove in Hampstead (Courtauld). Others are recognizable views with buildings or towns such as the watercolours of Richmond Castle, Yorkshire (Sotheby's 14 April 1994, lot 450), a group of farmhouses in Hampstead (Pierpont Morgan Library, NY), and views of Windsor and the house and estate of Montreal in Kent. Taverner's sale included watercolours of views 'behind Cavendish Square and in the environs of London' (Langford's 21-25 February 1774).
Sandpits at Woolwich was one of three large views of Greenwich and Woolwich which belonged to Sandby and appeared in his sale in 1812 (lot 70). It has become one of the icons of early watercolour painting in Britain, but we don't actually know when it was painted. Because Taverner practiced over such a long period we must ask whether it shows the influence of Dutch landscapists, one of whose favourite motifs for sketches from nature was a sandy bank by a road, or whether it shows the influence of the work of Skelton (cat. 63), Lambert (cat. 61), Gainsborough, or even Sandby who all painted similar subjects in watercolour or oil, but rarely on this scale. Alternatively, their work might have been inspired by this large ambitious painting in watercolour, of a size previously reserved for strictly topographical panoramas by Hollar or Danckerts or Taverner's own view of Richmond. There is no record that he ever exhibited this watercolour and it was in his collection at his death. When a professional artist produced landscapes on this scale, they were always with a purpose - either they contained a historical subject or depicted a place of some significance. But an amateur artist who painted only to please himself, did not need to justify his choice of subject in this way and if he was inspired by a scene which attracted him in itself, he was not limited by artistic convention in either size, medium or subject matter.
Literature: Stainton, 1985, no. 10
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1934 BM, Exhibition of English Art, no.305
1958 Apr, BM, Eight centuries of landscape ... water-colours, case 52
1973 Tate Gallery, 'Landscape in Britain c.1750-1850', no.75
1985, BM, British Landscape Watercolours 1600-1860, no.10
1986 May-Aug, Castle Museum, Nottingham, 'Sandby', (cat.)
2000 May-Sep, BM P&D, 'A Noble Art', no.60
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Possibly purchased at Taverner's sale at Langford's by Paul Sandby in 1776 (lot not known); it bear's Sandy's collector's stamp and appeared in his sale at Christie's in 1812 as one of three large views of Greenwich in lot 70, where it was purchased by F. B. Daniell. Percy purchased the drawing from Daniell's son (name not known) and the Museum purchased it through Hogarth and son at Percy's sale in 1890.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number