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Thomas Hearne, 1744–1817, British

View of Bath from Spring Gardens

Watercolor, pen and gray ink, and graphite on medium, slightly textured, cream wove paper
Sheet: 12 1/8 x 18 1/8 inches (30.8 x 46 cm)

Signed and dated in pen and gray ink, lower right: "1790 T.H."

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
architectural subject | barges | boating | boats | bridge (built work) | buildings | children | city | cityscape | dogs (animals) | family | fancy dress | food | landscape | leisure | men | Palladian | picnic | playing | reflections | river | sitting | trees | weir | women
Associated Places:
Avon | Bath | Bath and Northeast Somerset | England | Europe | Pulteney Bridge | United Kingdom
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Thomas Hearne chose to depict sites with an eye to their marketability. Bath, the most fashionable provincial city in eighteenth-century Britain, was an obvious choice. This grand exhibition watercolor was shown at the Royal Academy in 1792 and engraved in the same year with the title South East View of the City of Bath. The scene shows Bath’s stylish residents shuttling to and fro across the river Avon between the city’s South Parade and the Spring Garden pleasure grounds. Although made with black and white engraving in mind, Hearne has evoked the warm limestone used in all Bath’s buildings through rose-tinted coloring and matching autumnal foliage.

Gallery label for Great British Watercolors from the Paul Mellon Collection at the Yale Center for British Art (Yale Center for British Art, 2008-06-09 - 2008-08-17)
Bath epitomized eighteenth-century notions of politeness and good taste; its urban spaces resembled a series of stage sets upon which residents enacted the rituals of polite living, from assemblies and promenading, to taking the spa waters and attending musical concerts. Consequently, Hearne represents Bath as the genteel exhibition-going classes liked to imagine it: architecturally distinguished and populated by leisured individuals. It is precisely the image of Bath as seen by Tobias Smollett's fictional character Lydia Melford in his popular epistolary novel The Expedition of Humphry Clinker of 1771. She thought Bath "an earthly paradise" and, having listed its pleasures, told her correspondent:

"there is, moreover, another place of entertainment on the other side of the water . . . to which the company cross over in a boat-It is called Spring Garden; a sweet retreat, laid out in walks and ponds, and parterres of flowers; and there is a long-room for breakfasting and dancing."

Hargraves, Matthew, and Scott Wilcox. Great British Watercolors: from the Paul Mellon collection. New Haven: Yale Center for British Art, 2008, p. 38

In the last decades of the eighteenth century, the vogue for the Picturesque reshaped the conventions of topographical drawing; new aesthetic and sensory concerns were grafted onto its longstanding informational role. The straightforward presentation of antiquaries by the Bucks was replaced in the watercolors of Thomas Hearne, Michael Rooker, and Edward Dayes by images carefully calculated to enhance sublime or picturesque qualities of the site. In place of the distant "prospects" that were a Buck specialty, these artists took the viewer right into the fashionable precincts of the city or created far-off atmospheric vistas that provided a sense of the grandeur or the metropolis without enumerating its landmarks.

The watercolors by Thomas Hearne and Edward Dayes record new fashionable urban developments. Queen Square is one of four watercolors by Dayes of great squares that were such a striking feature of Georgian London. Dayes exhibited Queen Square along with Grosvenor Square (untraced) at the royal Academy in 1787. These two together with views of Bloomsbury square (Sotheby's 20 March 2000) and Hanover Square (British Museum), were engraved in 1787 and 1789. Hearne's View of bath from Spring Gardens, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1792, shows the view from the newly laid-out Spring Gardens, looking across the River Avon to John Wood's South Parade on the left and down the river to Robert Adam's Pulteney Bridge. Both Dayes and Hearne populate their urban views with a range of social types but give pride of place to elegant figures who help define the character of these new urban spaces.

Scott Wilcox

Wilcox, Forrester, O'Neil, Sloan. The Line of Beauty: British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century. Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2001, pg. 165 cat. no. 142

Eric Shanes, More art on the Line, The Royal Academy's Antique Room in the exhibition of 1792 , Burlington Magazine, vol.150,no.1261, April 2008, pp. 224-231, fig. 12, N1 B87 + (YCBA)

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