Joseph Mallord William Turner

Birmingham, with a Canal in the Foreground


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 78 × 110 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXL 49

Catalogue entry

Previous commentators have taken this to be a Dudley view, like many on adjacent pages, but James Hamilton seems correct in his identification of this as a Birmingham subject;1 as part of unpublished Turner research informed by local knowledge, Dr Bernard Richards has confirmed this.2 Folios 45 recto and 47 recto (D22407, D22411) may also show Birmingham. The key landmark is the tall dome on the right, apparently that of St Philip’s Church (later Birmingham Cathedral). The church spires are probably St Martin’s-in-the-Bullring on the left, and the lost Christ Church on the skyline near the centre. Their alignment is similar in a drawing in the contemporary Kenilworth sketchbook (Tate D22023; Turner Bequest CCXXXVIII 26a), showing Birmingham from the east, and the viewpoint here may be in the middle distance there, making Turner’s ‘Canal’ the Warwick and Birmingham. Later developments preclude a clear prospect today. As Hamilton notes, the ‘detail in these studies is spare, but there is an intensity of expression in the drawings of church spires and towers of the two towns [Birmingham and Dudley], and of the dirty and heavy industrial equipment lying about.’3
For other views of Birmingham, see under folio 3 recto (D22327); and for Dudley, see under folio 39 recto (D22395).

Matthew Imms
August 2013

Hamilton 2003, p.15.
Conversation with the author, 14 May 2013.
Hamilton 2003, p.150.

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