This view of the River Thames is dominated by Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament. The artist Henry Pether painted several river views of these structures in his later years. The Government Art Collection also holds a closer view of Westminster Bridge, with part of the Parliament building seen behind, and a painting of Westminster from Lambeth, both by Pether.
Demand for this scene may be partly attributed to the recent completion of these two great London landmarks. Following the almost complete destruction of the historic Palace of Westminster by fire in 1834, the new Houses of Parliament, designed by Charles Barry and A.W.N. Pugin, were built between 1840 and 1860. A new Westminster Bridge, designed by engineer Thomas Page, was also erected between 1854 and 1862 to replace the former mid-18th-century bridge.
Henry Pether was from a family of painters, who specialised in moonlit scenes; the most famous being his father, Abraham. He exhibited paintings at the Royal Academy (1828-62), Society of British Artists (1833/4, 1855) and British Institution (1865). He lived at addresses in Southampton, Greenwich, Camden Town and south London, probably moving to escape creditors. In 1837, when an inmate of a debtor’s prison, he was described as ‘Surveyor, Artist, Engineer, and Architect’. He applied for patents relating to mosaic tiles, a lamp globe and other architectural materials (1839-76). The tiles were exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851. At that time he lived in Kennington with his wife, Sarah, and children Fanny (14), Harry (10) and Kate (9).
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