Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Tower or Spire in a Landscape (‘Aurora Borealis’)

c.1825–38

View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Watercolour, gouache and graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 310 x 488 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D25280
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 158

Display caption

At the bottom of this sheet Turner has inscribed the words 'Aurora Borealis', possibly suggesting that this sketch records the natural phenomenon also known as the 'northern lights'. However, Turner has not actually recreated any of the distinctive, often spectacular, effects usually associated with these unusual apparitions. This is, nevertheless, a nocturnal scene. The looming form, seen indistinctly at the centre of the image, is more likely to be a church tower than a lighthouse.

Gallery label, September 1995

Catalogue entry

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