Joseph Mallord William Turner

?Buckingham Palace


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 346 x 511 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 29

Technique and condition

This work by Turner is a watercolour sketch on a medium weight, cream wove paper. Titled Two Trees in a Landscape this work appears to be quite a quick and probably unfinished sketch. It is a quick impression that is made up with a combination of both fluid and dry scratchy marks. The shaping is modest and the brush strokes hurried. While Turner has applied quite fluid washes to pick out much of the image he has also applied the media quite dry in the more defining areas. The coverage is also quite sparse. Large areas of the support either free of media or covered only with a very fine wash.

The support had a tendency to bow concavely (vertically). It's likely that this was a result of the adhesive that adhered it to the secondary support contracting and forcing the support to bow slightly. There was no apparent reason why a secondary support was added. The primary support did not seem to benefit from its presence. While acknowledging a number of very faint foxing spots this work is in good condition.

Jo Gracey
June 2001

Catalogue entry

Eric Shanes has suggested that this colour study, along with Tate D25283, D25284 and D25310 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 161, 162, 188), is for an undeveloped view of Buckingham Palace in central London for Turner’s Picturesque Views in England and Wales.1 As he notes, the building ‘sported a dome for a short time in the 1820s’,2 when the former Buckingham House was redeveloped in palatial, classical style by John Nash (1752–1832) for King George IV (1820–1830).3 There are engravings made around 1830 showing the palace in this intermediate state: The Garden Front of the King’s Palace in Pimlico from the west, across the lake in its gardens, by Thomas Higham (1796–1844), and The King’s Palace, Pimlico from the east, across the lake in St James’s Park, after Thomas Hosmer Shepherd (1793–1864) (both London Metropolitan Archives). The engraving from the west in particular shows the central dome and four flanking rectangular attic pavilions; the latter were presumably demolished when the dome was replaced by the present central rectangular attic floor before 1847.4
Turner had recorded the west side of Buckingham House and its gardens before its aggrandisement in a panoramic drawing made in the late 1810s from the adjacent London home of his Yorkshire patron and friend and Walter Fawkes, in the Skies sketchbook (Tate D12523, Tate D12524; Turner Bequest CLVIII 67a–68), the basis of the watercolour London, from the Windows of 45 Grosvenor Place of about 1819 (private collection),5 but there are no identified sketches of the palace as such.
The three other colour studies mentioned at the beginning of this entry focus on the silhouette of a building with a central dome and flanking rectangular projections on the skyline, which correlate fairly well with Nash’s design, though it has previously been suggested that they may represent Hampton Court Palace from the Thames. Here the building is less prominent in the distance on the left, although its profile and its reflection do seem to indicate a central dome with rooftop projections either side. It has been catalogued and exhibited with generic titles such as ‘An Italian Landscape’ and ‘Two Trees in a Landscape’, and shows a general debt the serene, light-filled classical landscapes of Claude Lorrain (1604/5–1682) so admired and so often emulated by Turner.6 The broad expanse of water in this case may be a river or natural lake, and the Buckingham Palace identification is likely to remain speculative.
Shanes 1997, pp.19, 95, 104.
Ibid., p.19.
See ‘History [of Buckingham Palace]’, The British Monarchy, accessed 19 March 2013,
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, pp.356–7 no.498, reproduced.
See Ian Warrell and others, Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery, London 2012.
Steiner 1975, p.60.

Matthew Imms
March 2013

Read full Catalogue entry


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