Westminster Bridge and Big Ben, London
John Wharlton Bunney
Date Made/Found: around 1860-1870
, British, 1828 - 1882
Material and Medium: watercolour on paper
Dimensions: Mount: 296 x 209mm
Sight size: 175 x 113mm
Accession Number: CGSGB157
Whilst this scene of Big Ben (properly named the Clock Tower, and now the Queen Elizabeth Tower), the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Bridge is very familiar to us today, it would have appeared very differently to spectators at the time Bunney painted this work.
Work on the Houses of Parliament had only finished in 1870 following a devastating fire, and the bridge too was only opened in 1863. Numerous artists including the French Impressionist painter, Claude Monet, painted this spectacular new view.
Bunney's work might appear as a sunset scene but in many ways, it echoes the colours seen in works by Claude Monet who painted this scene in the 1870s. Monet's works depict the view of the Houses of Parliament though the frequent thick fogs which hit London at the time, and show how the pollution changed the colour of the sky to produce a permanent effect of dawn or dusk.