The Houses of Parliament

The Houses of Parliament by David Roberts, RA 1796-1864. Signed lower right, inscribed Westminster "August 31st 1861" lower left. Pencil and watercolour, 9 3/4 x 13 3/4 inches (25 x 35 cm)

In the summer of 1860 Roberts, conscious of the need to start a new project, commenced his Thames series of paintings which his biographer, James Ballantyne, states was suggested to Roberts by J M W Turner, and which Roberts was keen to record before "the great sewrage[sic], which is now going on, to purify it and change it from its present state, and which will tottaly [sic] alter its present appearance" and before the construction of the Victoria Embankment. In August he made a number of sketches from the water and from Blackfriars and Lambeth. On his return from Scotland in October he continued with this series of watercolours but allowed them to lapse during the winter months, but worked in his studio on paintings of Rome and of Baalbec. The following summer, upon his return from the Art Congress held in Antwerp in early August, whence he had travelled with Louis and Charles Haghe, he painted the present picture.

The year before he had evinced his admiration for the architect of the Houses of Parliament, Sir Charles Barry, when he had written to his son-in-law on the moment of Barry's sudden death: " ... a great national loss ... his Houses of Parlement [sicj & the Reform Club have given a tone to the architecture of our day ... The Houses of Parlement have not only introduced the decorative in Gothic but has created a whole School of masons, carvers in wood and workers in metal, which will cany with it good taste wlicre before their [sic] were none, or ...far worse, miser- able impostors such as [William] Burn." [FAS catalogue]


Spring '99. London: The Fine Art Society, 1999. No. 5.

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Last modified 29 December 2004