The Bristol and Bath Art Book portrays two very different cities. The beautiful images in the book capture the breath-taking landscape of rivers, hills and gorges which they share, but also the cities’ sights that are so unique. Bristol is painted as busy, quirky and vibrant, where Bath glows in more tranquil hues. These important cities in the history of the world are intimately connected.
The river Avon that flows through both cities, gouges the spectacular Avon Gorge at Bristol, which is where its international maritime connections begin.
The regenerated old docks (the ‘floating harbour’), Wapping Wharf and the quayside are lovingly depicted by various artists. Now that the main docks are outside the city, the harbour-side now bustles with shops, bars and offices, but there are still cranes to be seen at the M shed. Underfall boatyard remains a home to maritime businesses and is also pictured in this lovely book, along with pleasure craft and houseboats in the harbour.
John Cabot’s The Matthew is the ship that put America on the map. The reconstruction is depicted in drawings and paintings. She may have been a pirate ship at one time, too, as Bristol was the birthplace of Blackbeard and had a thriving piracy business.
From this Atlantic connection, the list of items traded expanded from wool, wine and grain to tobacco and alas, to slaves. The profits from this trade endowed many of the fine public monuments drawn and painted here. Like many places, Bristol is undertaking a new reckoning with its history.
The great engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel designed the Clifton Suspension Bridge to span the deep Avon Gorge. In the book, there are many images of this vertiginous bridge: ringed by balloons, luminous in the gloaming, stark in the snow, or painted to resemble a cathedral arch from below. It is a much-loved, living monument to the great man.
His Great Western Railway terminus at Temple Meads features here in drawings and prints, along with his pioneering Bristol-built steamship, the SS Great Britain.
Crossing Brunel’s famous bridge over the Avon, you will find yourself in the tranquil Leigh woods, painted as a hotspot for bluebells in spring.
The old Railway Path, flat, traffic-free and lined with greenery, takes you from Bristol to Bath, where you will find more gorgeous parks: the Georgian garden in the town centre, Alexandra Park with panoramas of the city and the Botanical Gardens with its aerial walkway.
Bath is a UNESCO world heritage site because of its Roman remains and exquisite Georgian architecture. Its famous Roman Baths were built around a hot spring the Romans believed sacred to the Goddess Sulis and the city became a centre for health and an inspiration for artists.
Its 18th-century architecture: The Royal Crescent, The Circus, Pulteney Bridge and Assembly Rooms, are all examples of Bath’s heyday as a Georgian spa town and are featured in the art book in stunning paintings, drawings and collages.
They capture the Bath that Jane Austen would have known from her time in the city. Here, movies of some of her novels have been filmed, along with many other Regency era series e.g. the record-breaking series Bridgerton.