Topic: Subject or sitter

This is presumably the Thames estuary or East Coast, given that the vessel to the right is a Thames barge beating to windward. An enlargement clarifies that the vessel close under it is another Thames barge (ketch-rigged in that case). It might be a Thames estuary view south from the Essex shore toward north Kent, but one would probably expect more heavy shipping if a realistic one: certainly a lot of chalk cliff in the background though I suspect the 'bump' on the top there is just a rough-painting feature rather than a building and the whole is pretty 'broad' in manner. Whatever is in the right foreground is wooden revetment or a sluice of some sort, probably there for compositional purposes but not helpful to location except as suggesting a low-level and perhaps marshy shore.

Pieter van der Merwe, Maritime Subjects, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. The exact location has not been identified, but a general summary of the subject has been added to Art UK.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.


The Collection has commented: ‘Looking at the horizon line of the picture it certainly seems as though there may be some buildings on the left side see enlarged image attached. Which makes the suggestion of the subject's setting being near the Thames Estuary likely. We have also attached an enlarged image of the right foreground as there seems to be some sort of structure emerging here which may help with the location identification.’

2 attachments

The dark structure at left has the shape and 'finials' of a square church tower rising directly out of the sea: that is clearly impossible so apart from the matter of location I cannot think what it might be intended as, unless another sail misleadingly done. The timberwork at lower right is some sort of revetement, or perhaps a sluice, the odd 'loop' perhaps part of a fish-trap or net. There is a distant ketch-rigged vessel - probably a Thames barge - above the bow of the rowing boat as well as the main one at right and the vessel in mid-ground centre is a brig: all credibly Suffolk to Thames Estuary.

Louis Musgrove,

Ad to the painter-there is an Edward Duncan who painted very similar "boaty" scenes,but he died in 1882,Although other people seemed to "copy" his style.
Then there is Eveline Etheline Dell- who was an artist around the correct date.Seems to have been an illustrator ?????

I am not optimistic about finding an artist but a more useful title or description would be 'A stiff breeze on the Essex coast of the outer Thames, with Thames barges and a brig'.

I am happy to recommend that as a title. Its a reasonable shot from general appearances, with useful search terms, and if anyone radically disagrees on the location with good reason at some future point they can say so. It has been open over a year without any useful advance on artist either in names or parallel examples and I don't think leaving it open indefinitely will help.

Humphrey Welfare,

My apologies for coming late to this, but it does not seem to be Essex - where there are no such cliffs - no even the north coast of Kent. Along the latter the only cliffs are at Minster, on Sheppey, and at Herne Bay, but neither are that impressive and at neither can any low-lying land be seen in the position shown to the left. Typographically a more likely choice would be around Dover, with the lower land being the sweep round to Dungeness.

I doubt that it's in the Channel, not least for the shipping. The general look is 'estuarial/Thames/east coast', and apparently low-lying, sea-marshy in the foreground: given the sea is clearly enough to left rather than right, that suggests broadly Essex to me unless as far north as the Suffolk border. It has breezy character but (frankly) is not very good, either to be more specific on the topography or otherwise. One could be entirely neutral and say 'A stiff breeze on a low-lying coast, with Thames barges and a brig' and leave the suggestion that it might be somewhere on Essex shore of the outer Thames, or a little further north, looking south for 'more information'. Unless someone can produce a photo from a credibly similar spot that positively proves where it is, I don't think a further extended exchange on where it might be, without any such proof, is likely to help.

In the end the collection has to express a view so perhaps we could ask for that.

Humphrey Welfare,

The Thames barges traded widely, up and down the east coast, from the quarries at Portland, and to France, Belgium and the Netherlands (, which does not help to narrow the field. They were certainly often to be seen in the Channel.
Much hangs on whether the block to the right of the barge is a vertical white cliff. If it is not, then there is nothing distinctive enough to identify the coast and so the answer to the original question is simply No, and Pieter's neutral title would be appropriate. If, however, it is a white cliff (as it seems to be) there are very few options, especially as the low-lying land to the left has to be accounted for. The South Cliff at Flamborough (conceivably looking towards Bridlington) is superficially similar but the chalk cliffs on that side of the headland are not vertical. That brings us back to the coast of Kent, presumably between Dover and Folkestone, with a distant view to Dungeness where the 'buildings' could be a rough indication of the stump of the Old Light and the tower of the New Light (built in 1904, just before this picture was painted).
I grant Louis the similarity of the outline of the Kurhaus in Scheveningen, but there is no associated coastline, in the right topographical relationship, that would provide the view in E E D's painting.

Humphrey Welfare,

Intriguing. Is there, I wonder, a third painting that was the source of these two? It might explain the oddities of the Northampton picture - and the stuff about cliffs might be a complete red herring …

Humphrey Welfare,

That’s quite persuasive. Niemann’s storm cloud to the right, combined with the white topsail of the barge, would seem to be the precursors of EED’s ‘cliff’. My reason for thinking that there might be another source was that Griffiths depicted more detail in the distance than EED, but Niemann does not seem to have shown anything significant there. Could there be a yet earlier common origin?

The most practically useful of these comparisons is Marcie's of 10/07/2022 05:58, which is a near identical image by another hand.

At far left it has what is much more clearly a church tower with a turreted large square building to its right, and on the opposite shore what may be a beacon on a mound of some sort (not a domed building). The square building has the profile of a Norman keep (Rochester, or the Tower of London but is neither) or perhps a large warehouse.

Despite the (uncanny) similar disposition of foreground vessels in the Niemann, its background is very different and I don't think the likely source of the other two - though there may have been one. The Griffiths canvas also clearly shows that ours has nothing to do with Boulogne: if the Griffith's landscape exists, then we have an answer. If not then its an invention -and perhaps by by an unidentified third party who is being copied by both EED and Griffiths.

Louis Musgrove,

What sort of board is this painting on????
Plywood,Hardboard or a nice bit of old oak???
Somebody above asked where E.E.D came from.Have I missed the answer.Could we see a close up of E.E.D. 1907.? please.

I suggest this now closes leaving the artist as unidentified and with the following as a general summary:

The subject is large Thames barge going to windward in a stiff on-shore easterly breeze, off a marshy shore on either the north side of the Thames Estuary or another large inlet on the Essex coast: the southern side is in the distance. The composition, including the barge, the boat at left, and the wooden-revetement or sluice at lower right, is very similar to a more colourful 'naive' oil signed H.F Griffiths 1915, seen at internet sale, suggesting both might be based on a third and so-far unidentified image. Another internet auction lot by Edmund John Niemann (1813–1876) was speculatively produced as part of the discussion as a possible exemplar but was not conclusive and is no longer retrievable.