HAVELL, William (1782-1857)
[A Series of Picturesque Views of the River Thames. From the drawings of Wm. Havell. Dedicated to the commissioners of Thames navigation, by ... Robt. Havell]
[London: Robert Havell, 1818]. Large folio. (22 7/8 x 17 3/4 inches). 12 hand-coloured aquatint plates by Robert Havell after William Havell, each with black ruled border at the edge of the image and a buff wash border, on thin card, all on guards.
Expertly bound to style in dark green straight-grained morocco, covers with fine decorative border composed from fillets and an arabesque roll-tool of stylized foliage, spine in eight compartments with double raised bands, the bands highlighted in gilt, lettered in the second and fourth compartments, the others with repeat decoration in gilt made up from various small tools, gilt turn-ins, gilt edges
A very fine copy of this important series of Thames views: a visual essay in the picturesque from one of the great watercolour landscape artists of the time, with plates by Audubon's engraver.
The publication of the present work, present here in its rare second edition, marked the start of a long series of important publications by Robert Havell that were to culminate with his work on Audubon's Birds of America.
The British Dictionary of National Biography describes William Havell as being "one of the best earlier painters in watercolour," an artist of the highest calibre whose images are "distinguished by pure and delicate colour." Born in 1782 in Reading, England, he traveled widely in his search for subjects: Wales, the Lake District, Europe and eight years in India and Burma. However, the present series drawn from the river that flowed through his home town is arguably his best work. The panoramic views betray the artist's intimate understanding of his subject, he ably captures both the river as a calm focus for scenes of great picturesque beauty, and the river as a vital highway for transport and trade.
The plates, here bound without the title, offer the viewer a visual journey: from Oxford and the famous skyline of the Colleges, through the busy market town of Abingdon, to Wallingford (a view taken in 1810 whilst the bridge was being repaired), then two wonderful truly panoramic views of the Thames Valley, one viewed from higher ground at Streatley, and a second of Caversham Bridge near Reading. The journey continues with bucolic views near Park Place in Oxfordshire, the weir viewed from Marlow bridge and Clifden spring and woods, near Maidenhead. Taplow is next, then an interesting view of Windsor Castle before the renovations showing a skyline that is strange yet familiar. The journey ends with a fine view of Datchet Ferry near Windsor and a spectacular view of Staines church in newly emerged sunlight, whilst the rain clouds behind are lightened by a beautifully observed double rainbow.
Abbey Scenery 433; Prideaux p.265; Tooley p.141.