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Wealthy landowners often commissioned artists to make paintings of their estates and houses. Few were as extraordinary as William Beckford's outrageous residence, Fonthill Abbey. Beckford invited Turner to stay at Fonthill, in Wiltshire, when the building was still under construction. Turner made many drawings and sketches of the neo-Gothic extravagance and its huge tower, which collapsed under its
own weight a few years later.

 

The focus of this watercolour is the rural scene in the foreground, but some idea
of the sheer scale of the abbey can be gauged from the silhouetted tower visible on the horizon.

 

September 2004