History: Caroline MacMillan – The artists of Hammersmith riverside

‘In a fit of pique Cobden-Sanderson threw all the type into the river from Hammersmith Bridge’

What can be more pleasant on a sunny day than to walk beside the river at Hammersmith Mall? Sir Joseph Bazalgette’s magnificent suspension bridge dominates the sky line to the south, as do the ever present towering cranes on nearby building sites whilst looking northwards the willow covered island of Chiswick Eyot lies in the curve of the river. It is hardly surprising therefore that often artists can be seen perched on stools and working on their canvases capturing this delightful scene. But they are not the first painters to have been attracted to this part of London. Joseph Mallord William Turner once had a studio overlooking the river near Linden House and his sketch books contain drawings of the river and bridge at Hammersmith whilst Kelmscott House was home and studio to the William Morris, a leading member of the Arts and Crafts Movement whose fabric and wallpaper designs continue to adorn many homes today.

Morris also established the Kelmscott Press which specialised in beautiful typefaces and paper, engravings and binding and his Works of Geoffrey Chaucer with illustrations by Edward Burne-Jones, published in 1896 was a triumph. On a house adjacent to the Dove pub a blue plaque to T.J. Cobden-Sanderson reminds us he established the Doves Press here with neighbour Emery Walker. They eventually fell out and in a fit of pique Cobden-Sanderson threw all the type into the river from Hammersmith Bridge in order that his now ex-partner could not use it.

Peep round the corner into Weltje Road and there is another blue plaque on the house of number 48 which was home to Eric Ravilious.

As well as being a book illustrator and designer for The London Underground he was appointed a war artist during WWII but sadly died in a coastal operation off Iceland when his RAF plane failed to return to base.

Artists did not always live on land, Nancy Nicholson, the first wife of the poet Robert Graves, was a respected painter and textile designer in her own right and in the 1930s lived in a barge moored near to the Old Ship pub.

After painting this colourful picture of local artists over the centuries, why not take yourself to one of the nearby riverside pubs, take out a sketch pad and become one of the famous artists of Hammersmith Mall.

© Caroline MacMillan 2015.

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