The term Arcadia is synonymous with classical paradise and for three centuries a stretch of the River Thames has been known as the “Arcadian Thames”. It’s the most historical and indeed the most beautiful part of what many would say is the most beautiful river in the world. In the 16th century, Sir Walter Raleigh noted that “There are two things scarce matched in the universe the sun in heaven and the Thames on earth”, so it’s been an obvious choice for visual artists from time immemorial.
Located west of London between Chiswick and Weybridge, it’s the part where Royalty, the nobility and the wealthy went to avoid the stench and pestilence of London before the Victorians put in sewers. It had the advantage that the river could afford quick passage to the capital if needed. For this reason we have the Historic Royal Palace at Hampton Court and many other great houses in this arcadian paradise.
It’s easy to make wonderful, beautiful images of the Arcadian Thames. Turner, Reynolds and Pissarro are just a few who did it in paint, while William Henry Fox Talbot, the inventor and true father of modern photography, soon turned his camera on the river.
This book by multi award winning photojournalist Paul Stewart, in association with Thames Landscape Strategy, not only shows the beauty, it goes beyond that and looks at the river and the people who still live and work on and alongside it. These are the people and places that make this remarkable waterway special.
Rivers are great for bringing out the quirky, from the man taking his dog for a ride in a pedalo, to the hilarious “Bah Humbug – ery” and contradiction of the “No Fishing” sign at the mooring of The Anglers pub. So….. the best thing would be to get the book and immerse yourself in the Arcadian Thames.
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