Joseph Mallord William Turner
A Beam Engine, Probably beside the Dudley Canal 1830

Artwork details

Artist
Title
A Beam Engine, Probably beside the Dudley Canal
From Birmingham and Coventry Sketchbook
Turner Bequest CCXL
Date 1830
Medium Graphite on paper
Dimensions Support: 78 x 110 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D22409
Turner Bequest CCXL 46
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Catalogue entry

As part of unpublished Turner research informed by local knowledge, Dr Bernard Richards1 identified this sketch as showing a beam engine, with its large flywheel to the right. It may be beside the Dudley Canal at Tipton, but the open landscape shown here is difficult to relate to specific features today, with the hill running south to Dudley Castle dense with trees. The tower on the skyline may be the ruined castle keep, or possibly St Andrew’s Church, Netherton, further south; compare folios 39 verso and 43 verso (D22396, D22404). Turner drew the church in the contemporary Kenilworth sketchbook (Tate D22021; Turner Bequest CCXXXVIII 25a).
Although a beam engine does not feature in the industrial setting of Turner’s watercolour Dudley, Worcestershire of about 1832 (Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight),2 engraved in 1835 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impressions: T05097, T06113, T06114), the study is in keeping with those on adjacent pages which informed the composition to varying degrees. As James Hamilton notes of this drawing: ‘Turner acknowledged the significance of steam power in 1830; a sketch of this date clearly shows that he was entranced by the beams, the flywheels, the chimneys and the straining ropes of colliery winding engines near Dudley’.3
For other views of Dudley, see under folio 39 recto (D22395).

Matthew Imms
August 2013

1
Conversation with the author, 14 May 2013.
2
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.400 no.858, pl.195.
3
Hamilton 2003, p.23.

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