Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Arches of London Bridge under Construction, with Southwark Beyond; Groups of Figures, Perhaps at Cowes

c.1827

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 185 x 110 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D20784
Turner Bequest CCXXVII 32 a

Catalogue entry

The three bands of drawings here were all made with the page turned vertically. The upper (outer) half is taken up with a view from upstream on the north bank of construction work on London Bridge, with the tower of St Olave’s Church and the adjacent shot tower (both now gone) on the left and the Tower of Southwark Cathedral on the right on the opposite side.
There is a complementary view from that bank on folio 12 recto (D20751; Turner Bequest CCXXVII 12), under which the subject and the state of progress recorded here are discussed. James Hamilton’s 1998 Tate exhibition catalogue Turner and the Scientists lists both pages,1 and it is unclear which was exhibited on that occasion. For other London views in this sketchbook, see under folio 10 verso (D20748).
The lively groups of figures seen from behind below is not necessarily connected with the bridge subject; there are well-dressed women and girls in large bonnets, and men from various walks of life, apparently including a soldier wearing a tartan cap. They are comparable with the quayside crowd at Portsmouth on folio 23 verso (D20768; Turner Bequest CCXXVII 23), but the date inscribed above them, ‘Augt 26’, might refer to that date (a Sunday) in 1827 during Turner’s extended stay with John Nash on the Isle of Wight; there are various similarly candid studies in the Cowes Regatta and Windsor and Cowes, Isle of Wight sketchbooks (Tate; Turner Bequest CCVII, CCXXVI) which may show spectators at the Cowes sailing regattas and related events over that period. For Isle of Wight sketches in the present book, see under folio 2 recto (D20735).

Matthew Imms
November 2015

1
See ibid., p.141.

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