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Tuesday 16 June 2020

Collection Focus – Thames at Richmond

Volunteer Will takes us through the local areas depicted in two landscapes by Ramsay Richard Reinagle in our latest Collection Focus.

Across these two oil paintings from Ramsay Richard Reinagle, we get a 19th century view of Richmond’s riverside that is both instantly familiar and completely alien.

The first shows Asgill House at a similar angle to how many will have seen it when getting the train eastbound into Richmond, albeit much closer to ground level. As the second painting shows, in Reinagle’s time there was scarcely another vantage point, since neither the railway crossing nor Twickenham Bridge had been built yet.

View of the Thames at Richmond, looking towards Asgill House
Thames at Richmond from Middlesex bank, looking towards Asgill House, Ramsay Richard Reinagle

The …towards Asgill House painting shows how little this section of the Richmond-side towpath – also known as Cholmondeley Walk – has changed over the intervening centuries. Reinagle’s lifetime (1775-1862) was no different in this regard, throughout which Asgill House, Trumpeters’ House and Queensberry House, each partially visible here, remained the area’s main landmarks. It makes these works all the more difficult to date without any contemporaneous record – the first half of the 19th century is about as good an estimate as we can make.

Thames at Richmond from Middlesex bank, looking towards bridge, Ramsay Richard Reinagle

The …looking towards bridge painting, meanwhile, effectively zooms out from here to show the opposite towpath in a state unrecognisable from today, free from any buildings whatsoever. About the only vague similarity is the pathway leading towards Richmond Bridge, a present-day version of which can be found in the form of Ducks Walk, though judging from Reinagle’s work Cows Walk might have been a more appropriate title.

In today’s landscape, you’ll need to make your way up to Petersham Meadows to find the nearest livestock, but there’s a surprising amount of greenery that still survives between the many houses and apartment blocks that now adorn the riverbank. Google Maps’ satellite view of the area reveals some well preserved green spaces adjacent to what is now Ranelagh Drive, though most of these unfortunately sit within the private gardens of local residents. Nonetheless, it remains an underrated stretch of the river, easy enough to explore by bike or on foot given the relative lack of human, or indeed animal, traffic.

Will Dix

As a lifelong visitor to art galleries and museums all around the world, volunteering with Orleans House Gallery has given me a fascinating glimpse of how things work on the inside. Writing about the collection, meanwhile, has allowed me to explore multiple aspects of local history, such as the borough’s architectural evolution and its many colourful former residents. Alongside Orleans House, my favourite galleries and exhibition spaces include London’s National Portrait Gallery, Amsterdam’s FOAM and New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Join our volunteer team, where you can contribute to the next Collection Focus – you can learn more about the opportunities on offer here.