Visualising the Lower Thames: modernity, empire and naturalism c. 1880-1901
This dissertation analyses the visual representations of the Lower Thames in the years between about 1880 and 1901 to understand the ways in which they reconstructed and projected modern life in London in and through visual forms. Focusing on works which were accessible in the broad middle-class sphere through exhibitions and publications, it sets out to show how non-modernist works of art articulated capitalist modernity in powerful terms. In translating a working port into representations such as exhibition pictures and newspaper illustrations, artists exploited the naturalist aesthetic. They highlighted the dirty, modern, chaotic and even dangerous river, while playing with the distance between that depicted working-class site and the middle-class audience of their work. Examining their subject and means of representation, the dissertation shows how the late Victorian representations of the Port of London illuminated the values of technology, labour, capital and the Empire.