Joseph Mallord William Turner

Classical Buildings beside a Bridge


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 312 × 485 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 75

Catalogue entry

This radiant ‘colour beginning’, with its loosely defined architectural forms suggesting columns and entablatures, has not been linked to any completed composition. It evokes the idealised light of Italy, mediated by Turner’s admiration for the seaport compositions of Claude Lorrain (1604/5–1682), whom Turner greatly admired and often emulated.1
For example there is a presumably fortuitous general resemblance to the scene in the watercolour Florence, from the Ponte alla Carraia of about 1816–17 (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester),2 engraved in 1818 for Hakewill’s Italy (Tate impression: T06026), or the quayside scenes in the major paintings Dido Building Carthage; or the Rise of the Carthaginian Empire, exhibited in 1815 (Turner Bequest, National Gallery, London)3 and The Decline of the Carthaginian Empire, shown in 1817 (Tate N00499).4
For consistency, the present sheet is here dated to about1828–9 in line with various idealised colour studies in this section likely made around the time of Turner’s second Italian tour.
See Ian Warrell and others, Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery, London 2012.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.382 no.713, reproduced.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.94–6 no.131, pl.133 (colour).
Ibid., pp.100–1 no.135, pl.137 (colour).
Technical notes:
Pale lines running across the sheet may indicate water damage from the 1928 Tate Gallery flood.
Blank; laid down.

Matthew Imms
August 2016

Read full Catalogue entry

You might like