Joseph Mallord William Turner

Oxford: The Interior of Christ Church Cathedral

c.1798

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

Medium
Gouache, pen and ink, graphite and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 686 x 499 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D02348
Turner Bequest L G

Display caption

This is an extremely rare example of Turner breaking the rules of perspective to show horizontal lines parallel to the picture plane as converging. According to the rules of perspective all such lines should be represented by lines that are horizontal on the surface of the picture. However, Turner has shown the upper horizontal parts of the nave and transept sloping down to a vanishing point outside the left edge of the painting.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

This is an unfinished watercolour, showing the view looking past the crossing and organ screen into the chancel. The sonorous tonality and bold treatment of Romanesque architecture take up themes that Turner had treated with great force in his exhibited watercolour of 1797, Transept of Ewenny Priory, Glamorganshire (National Museum Wales, Cardiff).1
A similar subject, embarked on about this time and taken closer to completion, is the grand view of the interior of Durham Cathedral (Tate D01101; Turner Bequest XXXVI G).

Andrew Wilton
March 2013

1
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.325 no.227, pl.28.

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