View of the Adelphi from the River Thames

William Marlow (1740 - 1813)

Oil on canvas

c.1789
  • About the work
    Location
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: HM Treasury, 1 Horse Guards Road

    This view of the Adelphi on the River Thames in London shows the building sixteen years after its completion in 1773. The tower and chimneys of the York Buildings Waterworks Company, which provided part of the first comprehensive water supply to London, are also depicted. The waterworks were named after York House, which formerly stood on the site but was demolished in the 1670s. The wooden octagonal tower of the waterworks was about 70 feet high and two steam-powered pumps were used to raise the water. 

    The Adelphi was a complex of buildings, including an elevated terrace of 22 private houses. One of the most famous residents was the actor David Garrick (1717–1779). The space below the terrace was rented out as warehouse accommodation. Built between 1768 and 1773, the development was an innovative but financially disastrous venture for the Scottish architects and brothers Robert (1728–1792) and James Adam (1732–1794). Their family relationship was reflected in the name of the buildings; ‘Adelphoi’ being Greek for brothers. The workforce who built the structure also came from Scotland. These Scottish labourers were brought to London and employed at a cheap rate, and bagpipes were played daily. However, the national credit crisis of 1772 led to the abandonment of the project and to near financial ruin for the Adam brothers. 

    With the exception of No. 7 Adam Street and one or two other properties, the buildings were demolished in 1936. Between 1936 and 1938 Adelphi House, an enormous art deco style office block designed by the architectural firm of Collcutt and Hemp, was built on the site.

    Artist William Marlow painted numerous views of the River Thames and this is one of several in which the Adelphi features strongly. He exhibited The Adelphi at the Society of Artists in 1771 and View on the River (The Adelphi) at the Royal Academy in 1789. 


  • About the artist
    Landscapist William Marlow was born in London or Southwark. He trained in the studio of marine painter Samuel Scott in Covent Garden (1756-61) and is also thought to have studied at the St Martin’s Lane Academy. Marlow spent his early career travelling around England in search of subjects; painting English country houses and the areas around Twickenham, Richmond, and the lower banks of the Thames. On the advice of the Duchess of Northumberland he travelled to France and Italy (1765-66). He exhibited at the Society of Artists, becoming Vice-President in 1778, and at the Royal Academy. Marlow lived for a time in Leicester Fields (now Leicester Square). His one pupil was John Curtis. In c.1785 he retired to Twickenham, where he died aged 72.
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  • Details
    Title
    View of the Adelphi from the River Thames
    Date
    c.1789
    Medium
    Oil on canvas
    Dimensions
    height: 104.50 cm, width: 165.50 cm
    Acquisition
    Purchased from Colnaghi's, July 1978
    Provenance
    Collection of Maldwin Andrew Cyril Drummond (born 1932); sold through Christie's, London, on 25 November 1977 (Lot 72); with Colnaghi, London; from whom purchased by the Department of the Environment in November 1978
    GAC number
    14305