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The Battle of Waterloo (1815) saw Britain and Prussia defeat France, putting an end to the Napoleonic wars and more than a decade of conflict. Turner visited the battlefield, already a tourist attraction, in 1817. He filled a sketchbook with drawings and notes, and later made studies of soldiers’ uniforms in preparation for this painting. In it, Turner emphasises war’s tragic consequences for all its victims. With the painting he quoted Byron’s poem ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’, lamenting ‘friend, foe, in one red burial blent!’. Many other works by Turner are on display here in the Clore Gallery.

February 2016