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Thomas Malton the Younger, 1748–1804, British

Interior of St. Paul's Cathedral

ca. 1792
Watercolor, pen and black ink, and graphite on smooth, medium, cream laid paper laid down on card
Sheet: 26 1/4 x 36 1/8 inches (66.7 x 91.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
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IIIF Manifest:

Throughout his career, Thomas Malton specialized in topographical views and perspective drawings such as this view of St. Paul’s Cathedral. The prominent role of architects in the establishment of the Royal Academy in 1768 brought new attention to architectural drawing and the vital role of the draftsman in translating plans and elevations into perspectival renderings. Trained at the Royal Academy, Malton was highly skilled in the mathematical complexities and optical accommodations required for perspective drawings, providing some illustrations for his father’s treatise on perspective. He hoped to be elected an associate of the Royal Academy as an architect. He never executed a building and, having the misfortune to stand for election at the same time as John Soane, was rejected by the Academy. In a bid to establish his credentials as an artist and gain acceptance to the Academy as a painter, Malton turned his eye to the city around him, publishing the aquatint series “A Picturesque Tour Through the Cities of London and Westminster”, exhibiting watercolors in tandem with this project. This view of St. Paul’s was one of a suite of views of the cathedral exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1797; the aquatint version followed in 1798. Malton admired Wren’s design, devoting eight plates to St. Paul’s and commenting: “The dome is a stupendous work, that cannot be viewed without surprize and delight, as the happiest and boldest production of architecture in England” (Malton, 1792, p. 68). He also probably appreciated the challenges presented to his skills by Wren’s design. To convey the vast grandeur of the structure, which acts as classical basilica, tourist attraction, and society promenade, he deployed the convention known as “scena per angolo” to construct perspective along one or more diagonals rather than along a central axis.

Morna O'Neill

Baskett, John, Jules David Prown, Duncan Robinson, Brian Allen, and William Reese. Paul Mellon's Legacy: A Passion for British Art. New Haven : Yale Center for British Art , 2007, cat. no. 55

Agitation for an organized art establishment and the formation of various exhibiting societies in the mid-eighteenth century culminated with the foundation of the Royal Academy in 1768. With the prominent role of architects in these proceedings and the inclusion of architecture as one of the branches of the Academy, architectural drawings were given increased attention, and they were frequently shown in proximity to paintings at the annual Academy exhibitions. As a result, a new kind of artist arose: the architectural draftsman whose role was to translate the plan, section, and elevation designs of the architect into an actual albeit imagined, structure as well as to record existing monuments. Thomas Malton the Younger, like his father the perspective specialist Thomas Malton the Elder (1726-1801), was one such artist. Trained as an architect in the Royal Academy schools, Malton specialized in topographical views and perspective drawings. Although he showed his own designs at Academy Exhibitions, he never executed a building. He is best remembered for his successful use of the newly invented method of aquatint in his A Picturesque Tour through the Cities of London and Westminster. In this drawing, he employs the Italian convention known as scena per Angola, a technique used in theater design to construct perspective along one or more diagonals rather than a central axis. This innovation allows Malton to convey the vast Grandeur of Wren's St. Paul's, which acts as both classical basilica and society promenade. This drawing is one of a suite of views of St. Paul's exhibited by Malton at the Royal Academy in 1792. Malton took his vocation seriously, and he hoped to be elected an Associate of the Royal Academy. However, he was rejected as "only a draughtsman of buildings, but no architect."

Morna O'Neill

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. 151 cat. no. 129

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's Legacy: a Passion for British Art: Masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, p. 267, no. 55, pl. 55, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Mark Hallett, The Great Spectacle: 250 years of the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, [London], p. 172, cat. 76, N5054 .H35 2018 (LC) Oversize (YCBA)

Thomas Malton the Younger, Picturesque tour through the cities of London and Westminster, London, 1792, p. 68 (v.2), Available online in Orbis

Paul Mellon's Legacy, a passion for British art. [large print labels] , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, v. 2, no. 55, N5220 M552 +P381 2007, Mellon Shelf (YCBA)

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