Joseph Mallord William Turner

Bristol: Clifton from across the Avon Gorge

c.1813

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 88 × 113 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D09901
Turner Bequest CXXXV 7 a

Catalogue entry

The coherence of this view is compromised by the trees on the right, which continue on folio 8 recto opposite (D09902); beyond them on the other page are more distant houses and a valley receding into the distance. The overall view can be understood by comparison with an oil of about 1818–20 by Francis Danby of Clifton from Leigh Woods (Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery),1 showing much the same scene, dominated by the pilastered west front of Windsor Terrace on its bastion above the river.
In Turner’s drawing, these features appear to be lightly indicated but largely hidden behind the trees, just over the gutter on the opposite page, but also offset here along with the heavily shaded foliage in front of them. On the present page, the buildings towards the top right correspond with those towards the top left of Danby’s painting, namely the Paragon, a terrace on a quarter-circle ground plan. The houses towards the top left are along Sion Hill (hidden in Danby’s view), while the windows towards the bottom centre belong to the terraced houses along Hotwells Road, clearly shown in the painting. All of these are still recognisable today from south of the Clifton Suspension Bridge. To the right of the trees, on the opposite page, the view is to the south-east, up the Avon towards the centre of Bristol with its locks and docks, and beyond to the hills towards Bath.
This is the last of five Bristol sketches, beginning on folio 3 verso (D09894), under which earlier views are discussed.
1
Francis Greenacre, Francis Danby 1793–1861, exhibition catalogue, City of Bristol Museum and Art Gallery 1988, p.83 no.9, reproduced; Eric Adams, Francis Danby: Varieties of Poetic Landscape, New Haven and London 1973, p.171 no.11, fig.20.
Technical notes:
A small, ringed spot of foxing at the bottom left shows through to the recto (D09900).

Matthew Imms
April 2014

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