The bustling river below Tower Bridge signed 'Charles Dixon' and dated 1903 (lower left) pen, ink and watercolour heightened with white 70.5 x 126cm. (27 3/4 x 49 5/8in.)
Most of todays inhabitants of Docklands would find it very hard, if not impossible, to comprehend let alone imagine the prosperous hustle and bustle of Londons docks in their imperial heyday. A century ago, in the Edwardian era, the British Empire stood at its zenith and the docks at the heart of the mother-countrys capital were the busiest in the world. With raw materials pouring in from every corner of the globe and manufactured goods filling the holds of every out-bound ship, London was also the main terminal for the innumerable passenger lines which serviced every continent save North America. With no highway but the sea to transport all these eager travellers and all that priceless cargo, it is small wonder that any accurate snapshot of Londons docks during that period invariably reveals a chaotic scene of near pandemonium on the river. In this rather untypical work by the master Charles Dixon, he has nevertheless managed to convey all that pell-mell bustle of activity yet, at the same time, depict a riverscape of great beauty by his treatment of the glittering water and the smoke from steamers funnels gently rising into a lustrous sky. The backdrop of Tower Bridge and the dome of St. Pauls simply adds to the overall atmosphere and whilst the scene is strikingly similar to the many kindred works by Dixons contemporary Frank Scarborough, it is an altogether finer composition and indicative of Dixons infinitely superior talent. Probably an exhibition piece given its size, this splendid painting as an evocation of Londons great commercial past can hardly be bettered.