Home » Art Life » The Bridge Exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands

The Bridge Exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands

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In a couple of recent posts, I have given some background on the Bridge Exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands which opens to the public on the 27th June.

Well just before the big day, the press was given access to what is likely to be one of the highest profile exhibitions ever held at the Museum of London Docklands.

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The exhibition is based in the 19th century warehouse which provides the ideal setting for the paintings, prints , photographs and films.

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Old Hungerford Bridge – William Henry Fox Talbot (copyright Museum of London)

Without doubt the star of the show  is the very early photograph by William Henry Fox Talbot,  it is quite incredible that the photograph has survived at all . Called  ‘ Old Hungerford Bridge’ the photo was taken in 1845 , when Fox Talbot was beginning to perfect the process that would dominate photography for the next 150 years. It is somewhat ironic that the bridge built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel only survived 15 years but this extremely fragile photograph has survived over 160 years.

The Exhibition is built around the themes of Bridge ,River, Building , Crowds and Icons.

The Bridge theme considers the way that London for a long period reliant on London Bridge for a crossing, in the 19th century went through a Bridge building explosion fuelled by the industrial revolution and the growth of the railways.

Etchings by Whistler illustrate this growth and pays  homage to Old Westminster Bridge.

The painting by Joseph Farrington made in 1789 gives an almost dreamlike impression of London before major building works on the river began.

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Lucinda Grange with a very rare photo of inside London Bridge

More recently the photograph taken inside London Bridge by Lucinda Grange challenges some of our preconceptions of bridges.

The River theme makes the obvious point that without the river, London as we know it would not probably exist. The Thames has been a constant through centuries of change and has provided major challenges  to those who would like to cross it . The William Raban film provides a visual tour through some of the stranger aspects of the river.

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The Building theme remind us that building bridges are not always an easy process and are often sources of great engineering ingenuity.

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The etching by Giovanni Battista Piranesi of Blackfriars Bridge in 1766 illustrates some of the weird and wonderful designs that do not always come to fruition, the recent Thomas Heatherwick  proposal for a Garden Bridge may be  a classic case of this phenomenon.

Thomas Heatherwick Garden Bridge

Thomas Heatherwick (copyright Arup)

The Crowds theme looks at the way that Londoners have used the bridges often for their daily commute, this has often fascinated artists and photographers. The picture by Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson from 1927 illustrates London as a working  industrial city.

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Finally, the exhibition looks at the way that the bridges themselves become Icons and how they come to represent the city as a whole. For many centuries London Bridge had its iconic role, however in more recent times Tower Bridge has become a focus of world attention especially during the 2012 Olympic Games.

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Ewan Gibbs, London, 2007

Ewan Gibbs Linocut offers a different view which in many ways references Whistler’s work.

Though the  exhibition is relatively small, its ambition and themes are large. Like the Museum’s recent exhibition Estuary  it examines how the river has played a major part in London’s development and how Bridges have become an integral part of that story.

Using the Museum of London’s considerable art resources past and present , this free exhibition is one not to miss and if your bridge fixation is not satisfied visit other parts of the museum to see a scale model of Old London Bridge and many other interesting exhibits.

 Museum of London Docklands – Bridge exhibition

27 June – 2 November 2014,

FREE exhibition,

For more information visit  the Museum of London Docklands website here

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