View of Greenwich Hospital and the River Thames Taken on the Isle of Dogs by Augustus Wall Callcott (1779-1844). Commissioned 1827. Oil on canvas. H 54.6 x W 85 cm. Collection: Sir John Soane's Museum. Accession number SM P313. Commissioned by Soane. Image kindly released on the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives licence (CC BY-NC-ND); downloaded via Art UK by Jacqueline Banerjee.

Like so many other artists, Callcott was fond of sketching views of the Thames at different spots. David Blayney Brown reports that he "took considerably more pains over his marines than over his landscapes, and based them to a greater extent on direct observation" (78), and the details in this view are more closely observed than most. The man using the oars might have been ferrying goods across from the Isle of Dogs, or possibly taking up eel traps: "the more delicate eels are caught nearer home," according to an account of the Billingsgate fish market, and there is still an historic pie shop in Greenwich which offers jellied eels (Goddards at Greenwhich). The man in the smarter frock-coat might be an artist. What really matters here is not so much the precise activity in which the two men are engaged, but their participation in the ongoing activity that the river supports. This might be on a humble and individual level, or on the much larger scale suggested by the gracefully masted ships moored nearby, the splendid architecture of the Greenwich Hospital dimly seen on the opposite bank, and the proximity of the city itself. All are beholden to the wide river that gives and brings life to the capital.

Links to Related Material


Brown, David Blayney. Augustus Wall Callcott. London: Tate Gallery, 1981.

View of Greenwich Hospital and the River Thames Taken on the Isle of Dogs. Art Uk. Web. 14 April 2023.

Created 14 April 2023