Joseph Mallord William TurnerEnglish School and Other Buildings, on Right of Heriot's Hospital 1818

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Artwork details

English School and Other Buildings, on Right of Heriot's Hospital
From Scotch Antiquities Sketchbook
Turner Bequest CLXVII
Date 1818
MediumGraphite on paper
Dimensionssupport: 112 x 186 mm
Acquisition Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXVII 86 a
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Catalogue entry

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 75 Verso:
English School and Other Buildings, on Right of Heriot’s Hospital 1818
Turner Bequest CLXVII 86a
Pencil on white wove paper, 112 x 186 mm
Inscribed in pencil by Turner: top centre ‘Stone’; centre left ‘3 Tap | W Boads’; lower left ‘[?]whose Th[...]’, ‘For [?]stock [?]pub’, ‘Fairburn’, ‘w’ | ‘Young’; lower centre ‘2 School’, ‘English School’ | ‘Red’, ?’Candlestick’, bottom centre ?‘[...] crockery’; right ‘[?]Scotch Wool and Toy [?]D[...]’
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This sketch of the ‘English School’ and other buildings in the West Bow, was incorporated by Turner into his 1819 watercolour of Heriot’s Hospital, Edinburgh, circa 1819 (National Gallery of Scotland),1 the preparatory sketch of which was made on the other side of this sketchbook page (folio 75; D13744; CLXVII 86). Turner used only the central vertical strip of this sketch, slicing the corner of the building marked ‘English School’ onto the buildings from the Heriot’s Hospital sketch.
In the watercolour Turner includes a pile of crockery, pots, jugs and baskets at the foot of the shops with clothes and boots hanging from the front of a shop which hangs a flag with the words ‘AULD RAGS BOUGHT’; the figure carrying a jug on her head disembodied from the main sketch and suspended in the air probably inspired the rag-and-bone merchant in the finished design. The inclusion of the ‘English School’ creates a contrast between the lofty grandeur of Heriot’s Hospital school in the distance and the English school located in a cramped squalid corner of the busy street. Commentators have also noted that the sign looks more like ‘AULD RA’ (as in Royal Academy) and there could be a furtive reference to the English School of painting.2 Other inscriptions in the sketch refer to shop names: ‘Fairburn’, ‘Young’, etc., and to features of the buildings: ‘w[hite] Boards’, ‘Red’ and ‘Stone’. The street lamp at the corner of the building may be an example of one of the first gas lamps introduced in Edinburgh in 1818.

Thomas Ardill
April 2008

Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, .p.426 no.1064.
Katrina Thomson, Turner and Sir Walter Scott: The Provincial Antiquities and Picturesque Scenery of Scotland, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh 1999, p..90 cat.32

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