Southwark, London 1740 - 1813 Twickenham
A View of the Bridge of Saint-Bénézet, Le Pont d’Avignon
William Marlow was an English topographical and landscape painter working in both oils and watercolours. He was born in Southwark in l740 and was apprenticed to Samuel Scott in l754. At this time he also studied at St. Martin's Lane Academy. He was influenced by the works of Richard Wilson and Canaletto as well as his teacher. After his studies he toured England extensively and from l765 at the advice of the Duchess of Northumberland, he travelled at his leisure through France to Florence, Rome and Naples making many drawings along the way in both France and Italy which he used as studies for his paintings.
On his return to England in l766 he painted views of country houses, including Castle Howard in l772. During this time he exhibited at the Society of Artists of Great Britain (which made him a fellow in 1771) and at the Royal Academy between l788 - l796 and again finally in l807. However by about l785 he had retired to Twickenham and painted only for his own amusement.
An Album of drawings in the Tate (T09164) is testament to how well travelled he was on the continent. One particular sheet within the album shows the Bridge from one bank to the other. The drawing is more complete in that it shows the castellated walls of the city and the rocky walls that border the river Rhône. In our painting Marlow swings the view round to the left and depicts the bridge and its ruined far side from below the city walls.
A further drawing in the Abbot Hall Art Gallery is closer to the painting in its view and we see the figures standing on the low riverbank wall with the steps leading off to the left. The focus also lies on the fortified church sitting on the pier mid bridge. We do not however see the ruined far end which presumably Marlow took from the larger drawing with a wider view in the album.
These drawings would all have been completed during his stop off in Provence and Avignon on his way from Paris to Rome in 1765. It is likely that he completed the finished painting on his return to England.
Marlow exhibited a drawing at the Society of Artists in 1773, no 181 of the Bridge and finally in 1783, no 154, A View of Avignon. Sadly it is not possible to link this to this painting but the drawing may well be that from the Abbot Hall Art Gallery.
Private Collection, France