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David Roberts RA, Ships in a harbour

Ships in a harbour, by 1864

David Roberts RA (1796 - 1864)

RA Collection: Art

David Roberts recorded in his diary on the 9th August 1860 that he had begun making sketches for a set of views along the Thames. According to Roberts's biographer and friend, James Ballantine, this idea had been suggested to the artist by J. M. W. Turner who had once hoped to produce a series on this theme himself.

This set of drawings, two of them dated 11th August 1860, clearly relate to Roberts's Thames project. Judging by the size and type of paper, it is possible that they were originally part of one sketchbook. In letters written in August 1860 Roberts described his sketching activities, stating: 'I am, as usual, when the afternoon is fine, taking my stroll about town, on and near the river. Yesterday I made a sketch from Blackfriars Bridge, which was not very pleasant, for I had some very ragged customers around me. Still, the more I see of my proposed work the more I am convinced that I have fallen on a mine of wealth in good subjects. True, I have to get into all sorts of disagreeable and odd places, such as coal-wharves, lime-wharves, etc., for from the number of steamers plying the river, it is impossible to sit in a boat with safety, and the work must be done now or never, as the proposed new embankment will completely change the appeareance of the river and its picturesque adjuncts' [Roberts's was referring to the building of Joseph Bazalgette's new embankment].

Nevertheless, the project remained unfinished at Roberts’ death in 1864.

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This work comes from one of sixteen volumes of Royal Academy Annual Exhibition catalogues that were collected and extra-illustrated by the lawyer and antiquarian Edward Basil Jupp F.S.A. (1812 - 1877). The catalogues span the period from the first annual exhibition in 1769 up to 1875. Jupp added drawings, prints, letters and autographs by, or referring to, Academicians and other exhibitors at the Academy's annual exhibition.

E.B. Jupp was a solicitor who married Eliza Kay, daughter of the architect William Porden Kay. He was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and a clerk of the Carpenters' Company, of which he published a history. Jupp amassed a large collection of paintings by British and Dutch artists, drawings, prints, books and porcelain most of which was sold after his death, at Christie's in February 1878.

Many of the drawings in Jupp's Royal Academy extra-illustrated volumes were bought from art sales during the 1860s. He was also acquainted with a number of contemporary artists and several drawings in the later volumes (along with many of the letters and autographs) were sent from the artists themselves.

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Object details

Ships in a harbour
David Roberts RA (1796 - 1864)
by 1864
Object type
Pencil on buff coloured wove paper

163 mm x 116 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Given by Leverhulme Trust 1936
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