River and labour in Samuel Scott's thames views in the mid-eighteenth century
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Between 1745 and his death in 1772, Samuel Scott (1710-1772) completed a series of at least sixty-two paintings in oil that depict scenes of the Thames and its environs within London. This paper examines a group of these paintings depicting views of the Pool of London, of the quay, and of bridges and bridge-building, placing them in the context of discourse on the river and the Thames in the mid-eighteenth century. Scott's works adapt the conventions of topographical painting through their distinctive concentration on the ordinary world of the river labourers, especially boatmen, sailors, porters, and customs agents, as well as their passengers and customers. The paper examines how eighteenth-century poetry, especially georgic and descriptive verse, elaborates a discourse on the virtue of labour and commerce. These poetic tropes help identify within Scott's paintings a celebration of trade and the prosperity that it brings London, but also his recognition that the river was a mixed social space, in which the grandeur and wealth of the city was contrasted with the everyday commerce and labour of ordinary river people. © The London Journal Trust 2012.