As Finberg and others have recognised and discussed,1 this view of a canal-side windmill, said to be at Hanwell, is the basis of Turner’s painting Grand Junction Canal at Southall Mill, exhibited at his gallery in 1810 (currently untraced);2 there is a slight continuation of the canal bank to the left on folio 73 recto (D08056), and a view from further away in the same direction on folios 71 verso–72 recto (D08053, D08054).
Turner’s early biographer Thornbury reported that Turner recorded the scene one night, returning from visiting his friend the Rev. H.S. Trimmer at Heston,3 about ten miles from central London, and not far west of Isleworth, where Turner had lived by the Thames in 1805. W.G. Rawlinson was informed that the mill had been near the site of a later asylum in Hanwell,4 the site of which is now occupied by St Bernard’s Wing, Ealing Hospital, between the Uxbridge Road to the north and the Grand Union Canal and Osterley Park to the south. There are several locks along this stretch, and Windmill Lane crosses the canal at Windmill Bridge a little to the west. The Grand Junction Canal (later part of the Grand Union Canal) was begun in 1793 as a link from London to existing canals passing through the Midlands, and the Paddington Arm and basin had opened in 1801.5
The subject of a silhouetted windmill may have been partly influenced by the painting The Mill by (or after) Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669), exhibited at the British Institution in London as recently as 1806, to which Turner referred in his notes and lectures6 (National Gallery of Art, Washington). Finberg used this drawing as an example of ‘sketches that are nothing more nor less than memoranda for the artist’s own use’,7 apparently ‘scarcely intelligible’ yet indicative of ‘the state of mind in which a passionately felt work of art comes to birth’.8
For Turner’s 1811 Liber Studiorum engraving of the subject, see the entry for Tate N02941. The composition is recorded, as ‘6[:] 1 Windmill & Junction’, in the Liber Notes (2) sketchbook (Tate D12157; Turner Bequest CLIV (a) 24), in a draft schedule of the first ten parts of the Liber (D12156–D12158; CLIV (a) 23a–24a)9 dated by Finberg and Gillian Forrester to before the middle of 1808,10 which would suggest that the painting or Turner’s conception of the subject must date from some two years before its first exhibition.
See Finberg 1909, I, p.313; Finberg 1910, pp.61, 94; Finberg 1951, p.384; Joll 1967, p.23; Joll 1977, p.; Butlin and Joll 1984, p.72; Forrester 1996, pp.77 under no.27, 78 note 2; and Loukes and Kennedy 2001, p.40.
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.72–3 no.101, pl.108 (colour); Martin Butlin, ‘Lost, stolen and destroyed works’ in Joll, Butlin and Herrmann 2001, p.178.
Cited in Butlin and Joll 1984, p.72.
W[illiam] G[eorge] Rawlinson, Turner’s Liber Studiorum, A Description and a Catalogue, London 1878, p.61.
‘The Grand Junction Canal’, London Canal Museum, accessed 10 April 2006, http://www
.canalmuseum. .org .uk /history /grandjun .htm
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.73.
Finberg 1910, p.61.
Forrester 1996, pp.160–1 (transcribed).
Alexander J. Finberg, The History of Turner’s Liber Studiorum with a New Catalogue Raisonné, London 1924, p.xliii; Forrester 1996, pp.13–14.