Henry Pether’s skill for depicting moonlit scenes and in particular moonlight reflecting on water is evident in this work. However, it also demonstrates the painter’s accuracy and eye for detail in representing architectural subjects and even the rigging of each vessel moored on the Thames.
This view shows part of the Pool of London, a short section of the River Thames stretching from London Bridge to below Tower Bridge. While the Tower of London can be seen in the distance, the left of this composition is dominated by Billingsgate Market.
Several views by Henry Pether, showing the Pool of London and the Tower of London, have passed through auction houses. For example, a signed view of ‘Customs House, Pool of London, Tower beyond by Moonlight’, which has the same dimensions as this painting, was sold through Sotheby’s, London, in 1969.
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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