British Museum

  • About the work

    This print depicts what was then the newly-erected British Museum, designed by architect Robert Smirke. The print is one of a series of twelve views of famous London buildings, lithographed by Thomas Picken and William Simpson after drawings by Edmund Walker. The series was published by Messrs Lloyd Brothers & Co. and titled ‘Views of the Principal Buildings in London’. A review of the series, published in the ‘Art Journal’ in 1852, called for further illustrations of contemporary London:

    ‘It is somewhat singular that with such abundant materials for effective illustration as London possesses, we should yet be without a publication that does entire justice to our vast metropolis…. Messrs. Lloyd’s work, so far as it goes, supplies a deficiency we have long felt; still we think it might have been carried still further with advantage. The artists engaged upon it, Messrs. Picken, Walker, and Simpson, have certainly selected the most important edifices, and have lithographed them with taste and fidelity; ... We trust the success of this series may induce the publishers to undertake another, and thus, in a complete form, show to our “children’s children” how London looked in the middle of the nineteenth century.’

  • About the artist
    Watercolourist and painter William Simpson was born in Glasgow, the son of a marine engineer and mechanic. He trained as a lithographer under David Macfarlane and later Allan and Ferguson, and also studied at the Glasgow School of Design. In 1851 he moved to London to work for the lithographers Day & Son. He was sent to cover the Crimean War in 1854, after which he became known as ‘Crimean Simpson’. In 1866 he became an artist for the ‘Illustrated London News’, travelling in India, Russia and Afghanistan, and covering several major military campaigns of the 19th century. In 1874 he became a member of the Institute of Painters in Watercolour. He was also an amateur archaeologist and a prolific writer. Simpson died in London, aged 75.
    Edmund Walker began as a miniature painter on ivory, abandoning the practice as photography grew in popularity. He then turned to architectural draughtsmanship, making sketches of country seats and selling them to the owners. His views of the Thames Embankment (completed 1870) were exhibited at the Royal Academy, as were many of his architectural drawings. Sometime before 1851 he began working for the publishers Day & Son. He made watercolour views and lithographs of the interiors of the Great Exhibition and lithographed William Simpson’s sketches of the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny for the firm. He reportedly ‘never fully recovered’ from the effect of the failing fortunes of Day & Son, late in his career. Walker died in 1882, aged 68.
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  • Details
    British Museum
    1 May 1852
    Coloured lithograph
    height: 28cm, width: 39cm
    Origin uncertain
    GAC number