The Westminster view, with variations, by John Pye in 1809
With Oscar & Peter Johnson c 1970
Private Collection, UK
Scottish by birth, William Anderson trained initially as a shipwright, but realizing that his calling was painting ships rather than building ships he came to London and carved out a successful career as an artist. His earlier apprenticeship meant that he had a professional understanding of the structure of boats and ships and this is evident from the considerable accuracy with which his marine scenes are presented. He is best known today for his small, careful works on panel, but a look at the exhibition lists of the Royal Academy and the British Institution where he showed some 60 works tell us that he was also capable of working on a large scale too. The best public gallery in which to see his work is the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich. Both the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum have sketchbooks of his.
This present pair of pictures, both views that Anderson painted on more than one occasion, shows us two famous London landmarks. Taking his viewpoint from the south side of Westminster Bridge, Anderson gives us Westminster Abbey, with Westminster Hall as it was then with houses between it and the river. In the other view he shows us St Paul’s and London Bridge, with the view taken from the river’s edge on the north bank of the Thames. An engraving of the Westminster view, with slight variants but recognizeably from the same hand, was made by John Pye for Vernor, Wood and Sharpe’s Beauties of England and Wales. This print, an example of which is held by the British Museum, is useful on two counts. First its lettering underlines the authorship of our pictures by stating that it was “taken from a painting by W.Anderson”. Secondly the publication date of the print is given as 1809, which means we can similarly place our views close to that date.