Central Library holds three bound volumes of William Channing’s ‘Sketches in Edinburgh‘ which give his artist’s impression of tenement life in the mid 19th century. His drawings are glimpses into the past down the narrow closes and alleyways of the city’s streets and Old Town. We see higgledy-piggledy houses and tenements towering skywards, laundry hanging from windows across the walkways and local characters talking in the streets.
William Channing is a little-known artist today, although it’s thought he worked as a professional theatre scene painter. Some of his drawings give an insight into his drawing technique with guidelines still visible on the paper. Many views are duplicates with first the initial sketch followed by the finished watercolour drawing. Although it’s clear the images were sketched from life over 150 years ago, there is a freshness and contemporary feel to many of his drawings.
Channing’s beautiful sketches are particularly valued for their representation of the architectural elements and details of buildings and closes now much changed or long since disappeared.
You can view all three volumes of the sketches on Capital Collections :
Wm. Channing’s Sketches in Edinburgh – volume 1
Wm. Channing’s Sketches in Edinburgh – volume 2
Wm. Channing’s Sketches in Edinburgh – volume 3.