Joseph Mallord William Turner

Tamworth and the River Tame Bridges from near Fazeley, Staffordshire


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 357 x 523 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 61

Display caption

In the foreground is the triple-spanned road bridge near Fazeley which still carries the London-Holyhead road (or Watling Street, now the A5) over the river Tame. Beyond it three lightly-toned verticals and a connecting horizontal represent the Coventry Canal bridge over the Tame, while the L-shaped block of tone above those verticals clearly signifies the tower and nave of St Editha's Church, Tamworth. Admittedly, Tamworth Castle is not visible, although its tree-covered mound is delineated. However, Turner could easily have elaborated the citadel over the existing area of diffused, dappled colouring.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

Eric Shanes has identified this colour study as showing Tamworth, Staffordshire, from the south, based on a page with two variant pencil studies in the 1830 Kenilworth sketchbook (Tate D22074; Turner Bequest CCXXXVIII 52a), and suggests it as an undeveloped design for Turner’s Picturesque Views in England and Wales.1 A watercolour showing a nearer view of Tamworth Castle, Staffordshire of about 1830 (private collection),2 was engraved in 1832 for England and Wales (Tate impression: T04598), and there are two identified colour studies relating to it (Tate D25268, D25306; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 146, 184).
As described by Shanes, the present composition shows the three arches of the River Tame bridge in the middle distance, carrying the old main road (Watling Street) west to Fazeley, with the aqueduct carrying the Coventry Canal over the river beyond; on the horizon is the pale silhouette of St Editha’s Church, in the centre of Tamworth, although there is little to indicate Tamworth Castle, shown a little to its west in the pencil sketches, which show other details not incorporated in the colour sketch.3 The valley beyond the bridge is now obscured by trees.
See also the introductions to the present subsection of identified subjects and the overall England and Wales ‘colour beginnings’ grouping to which this work has been assigned.
Shanes 1997, pp.70, 95, 104.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.399 no.844, reproduced.
See Shanes 1997, p.70.
Technical notes:
Shanes notes that Peter Bower ‘has surmised’ that the sheet, albeit without a watermark, dates from 1828.1
Shanes 1997, p.92 note 55.1.
Blank, save for inscriptions: stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram above ‘CCLXIII – 61’; and in pencil ‘AB 93 P’ and ‘CCLXIII 61’ bottom right.

Matthew Imms
March 2013

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