Watercolour views by James Miller have been classified in different ways in different collections. His works are included in the ‘national collection of British watercolours’ at the V&A, and the British Museum holds five from the collection of Frederic Crace. The Crace collection was split between Prints and Drawings and the Map Library, with Prints and Drawings taking the ‘art’.
A large view of the Thames was also part of a portfolio transferred from the British Library Map Library in 1952. It had been classed as ‘A drawn view of Westminster Bridge by Miller’ in the Catalogue of Maps, Prints and Drawings etc. forming the Geographical and Topographical Collection attached to the library of his late Majesty King George the Third, 1829. Re-numbered British Museum 1952,0403.2, the painting was re-attributed to Samuel Scott, 'the English Canaletto', while the Department were preparing their exhibition Canaletto and the English draughtsmen, 1953.
The British Library’s remaining view of Whitehall, Maps K.Top.26.5.o., is bound into the geographically arranged sequence of single sheet items from the King’s Topographical Collection. There it was catalogued in 1829 as ‘A drawn View of the back of Whitehall, the Treasury, Horse Guards, &c, by Miller’. Recent research has shown that two views of Whitehall by Miller are recorded at the Royal Society of Artists in 1778 (no. 133) and 1780 (no. 163), so that this view may have originally been a partner to one of Crace’s views, now 1880,1113.2712 at the British Museum. See Algernon Graves, 'The Society of Artists of Great Britain, 1760-1791 (London: George Bell & Sons & Algernon Graves, 1907).
- Article by:
- Felicity Myrone
- Transforming topography, Country, Antiquarianism
Felicity Myrone explores how the ‘placing’ of topography and the collections’ perceived status and current accessibility at the British Library is the result of complex and often unintentional sequences of events.