Apart from the obvious charm of this fine view of Gravesend from the Thames, it is also worth noting the inclusion of the very early excursion steamer heading down-river and approaching the town in-shore.
Bearing in mind that it was only nine years before this work was painted that the very first paddle-steamer had appeared in the Thames to begin a scheduled service from London to Gravesend, steamers of any description were still a huge novelty on the river. Despite the perceived danger of travelling on a coal-fired steamship - or perhaps because of it - Londoners took to the idea of the day excursion with a will and, during the decade from 1815-24, it has been estimated that about twenty-six paddlers were operating out of London, mostly down to Gravesend or Margate. As a harbinger of things to come therefore, Huggins' depiction of a steamer amongst the myriad of sail on the river seems particularly apposite.
A prolific painter of ship's portraits and naval battles, William John Huggins served with the East India Company on board the Perseverance, sailing to Bombay and China in December 1812. On his return, two years later, he established himself as a marine painter, exhibiting regularly at the R.A. and, in 1836, he became Marine Painter to William IV.