This abandoned pencil drawing dates to about 1821 and was identified as the work of James Johnson in 2010. It can be compared with the artist's finished sketch of 1823, St Nicholas Church and part of Bristol Bridge (M2177), and also with Samuel Jackson's more highly coloured 1824 drawing of the same title (M2176).
By 1823, Johnson had developed into a fine architectural draughtsman, and there is a very exact quality evident in his works. Architects and builders looking at this drawing today would conceivably have enough visual information to reconstruct perfectly the outward appearance of the bridge.
What does the drawing reveal about Johnson's working method? At this very early stage, he has concentrated on the two main features of the view, the bridge and church, leaving a space in the middle of the drawn area for the toll house (there were two which by this time were being used as shops, the unpopular tolls having been discontinued). He probably commenced drawing from the left-foreground and worked across the river to the mid-ground. In other words, he worked from near to far, large to small, and also from general to specific. If we use M2177 as a guide, the likelihood is he would have drawn the church spire next, to complete the church, and then the buildings to its left including the tops of distant church towers. Then he would have moved on to the toll house/shops, the masts of ships obscured by the bridge, and finally the figures and other details on the bridge. The pristine space to the top and left of the sheet is destined for a fairly empty sky, but it is also where a left-handed artist might naturally rest his hand, particularly when drawing the numerous and identical balusters of the bridge balustrade. Perhaps James Johnson was left-handed.
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: Fine Art
: Bristol Bridge and Part of St Nicholas Church
: JOHNSON, James
: a line drawing on paper, mounted
: The Capper Pass Gift
: circa 1821
: circa 1821
: Given by Alfred Capper Pass, 1904.