Joseph Mallord William Turner

Funeral of Sir Thomas Lawrence: A Sketch from Memory

exhibited 1830

Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour and bodycolour on paper
Support: 561 × 769 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 344

Display caption

On 21 January 1830 Turner attended the funeral at St Paul's Cathedral of the portrait painter and President of the Royal Academy, Sir Thomas Lawrence. The next day he wrote to a friend: 'It is something to feel that gifted talent can be acknowledged by the many who yesterday waded up to their knees in snow and muck to see the funeral pomp swelled up by carriages of the great'. This watercolour was exhibited by Turner at the Royal Academy in 1830. It well evokes the crisp, chill air of a cold January day. A group of women to the right have their hands tucked inside their muffs, their shoulders huddled forward with the cold.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Technique and condition

Catalogue entry

One of Turner’s most prominent contemporary advocates was the artist, Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769–1830). The leading portraitist of the age, Lawrence was famed throughout Europe for his portraits of royalty, statesmen, military leaders and fashionable society, and his achievements brought him many honours including Principal Painter-in-Ordinary to the King, and also from 1820, President of the Royal Academy. Famously describing Turner as ‘indisputably the first landscape painter in Europe’,1 he not only owned some of the younger man’s paintings,2 but also supported his friend in other practical ways, such as helping to secure his only royal commission,3 and, in 1819, encouraging Turner to join him in Italy, writing to Joseph Farington: ‘Turner should come to Rome. His Genius would here be supplied with new Materials, and entirely congenial with it ... It is a fact, that the Country and scenes around me, do thus impress themselves upon me, and that Turner is always associated with them.’4 Following Turner’s arrival in Rome, Lawrence assisted him by introducing him to artistic society and facilitating his access to the Vatican and other artistic institutions.5 Turner was therefore greatly shocked by Lawrence’s sudden demise aged sixty-one on 7 January 1830, writing sorrowfully to fellow Academician Charles Lock Eastlake, ‘Do but think what a loss we and the arts have in the death of Sir Tho[ma]s Lawrence’.6 The news followed hard on the heels of other recent bereavements: that of Turner’s father in September 1829; another Academician, George Dawe in October; and finally, his close acquaintance, Harriet Wells, on 1 January 1830. In the wake of Lawrence’s funeral on 21 January, Turner poured his feelings of sadness and respect into this painted rendition of the event which he subtitled in an inscription ‘A sketch from memory’.
Lawrence’s funeral was a public occasion of great pomp and pageantry, unrivalled by any since that of Lord Nelson twenty-five years earlier. At the request of the Royal Academy the body was taken the night before the ceremony to Somerset House where it lay in repose in the model room, transformed by candles and black cloth hangings.7 The following day, at about 12.30pm, the velvet-draped coffin was transferred to a hearse and taken in solemn procession to St Paul’s Cathedral. Vast numbers of people gathered to witness the spectacle and members of the recently established Metropolitan Police Force were drafted in to control the crowds and traffic along the Strand.8 The event was reported in exhaustive detail by the Times newspaper who recorded that the order of the carefully stage-managed funerary procession was comprised of the following dignitaries and attendants:
Quoted in Hamlyn 2001, p.162.
Lawrence commissioned the watercolour, Abergavenny Bridge, 1799 (Victoria and Albert Museum), see Wilton 1979, no.252; and owned the oil painting, Newark Abbey, ?exhibited 1807 (Yale Center for British Art); see Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.65.
The Battle of Trafalgar, 21 October 1805, 1823–4 (National Maritime Museum), commissioned by George IV. See Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.252.
Quoted in Cecilia Powell, Turner in the South: Rome, Naples, Florence, New Haven and London 1987, p.19.
See Hardy George, ‘Turner, Lawrence, Canova and Venetian art: Three previously unpublished letters’, Apollo, October 1996, pp.25–32.
J.M.W. Turner, letter to Charles Eastlake, 11 February 1830. Quoted in Gage 1980, no.159, p.136.
Douglas Goldring, Regency Portrait Painter: The Life of Sir Thomas Lawrence, P.R.A., London 1951, p.332; and Alexander J. Finberg, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A. Second Edition, Revised, with a Supplement, by Hilda F. Finberg, revised ed., Oxford 1961, p.320.
‘Funeral of Sir Thomas Lawrence’, The Times, 22 January 1830, p.2.
Walter Thornbury, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A. Founded on Letters and Papers Furnished by his Friends and Fellow-Academicians, London 1862, vol.I, pp.177–8.
Quoted in Lord Ronald Sutherland Gower, Sir Thomas Lawrence, London 1900, .p.76.
Finberg 1909, vol.II, p.1150.
By 1830 the work has sustained considerable damage and due to its dilapidated state it was eventually replaced in 1886 by a replica version.
Turner, letter to George Jones, 22 February 1830. Quoted in Gage 1980, no.161, pp.137–8.
‘Sir Thomas Lawrence’, The Times, 23 January 1830, p.2.
A full list of these carriages appears in the ‘Sir Thomas Lawrence’, The Times, 23 January 1830, p.2.
Shanes, Joll, Warrell et al. 2000, p.177.
For a full account of the working relationship between Lawrence and Wellington see Susan Jenkins, ‘Sir Thomas Lawrence and the Duke of Wellington: A portraitist and his sitter’, British Art Journal, summer 2007, vol.VIII, no.1, pp.63–7.
Powell 1995, p.56.
Shanes 1997, p.32 note 29.
Wilton 2006, p.151.
Butlin and Joll 1984, no.72.
Ibid., no.86.
Ibid., no.427.
Alfrey 1988, p.42. See Butlin and Joll 1984, no.399.
Alfrey 1998, p.42.
Butlin and Joll 1984, no.400.
Turner, letter to George Jones, 22 February 1830. Quoted in Gage 1980, no.161, pp.137–8.
A bill from E.N. Thornton & Son for £152 9s exists in the Archive of the Royal Academy of Arts, RAA/SEC/1/71.
See Goldring 1951, p.332, and James Fenton, School of Genius: A History of the Royal Academy of Arts, London 2006, p.187.
For a full account of Lawrence’s will and the fate of the ‘Lawrence Gallery’ see Smiles 2007, pp.38–41. Drawings by from Lawrence’s collection by Michelangelo and Raphael were eventually presented by a group of subscribers to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford in 1845–6.
Ibid, pp.44–5.

Nicola Moorby
May 2011

Townsend 2002, p.83.
Townsend 2003, p.144.

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