Joseph Mallord William Turner

Hampton Court Bridge, with Houses on the River Bank


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 342 × 481 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 102

Catalogue entry

Ian Warrell first related this colour study to a pencil drawing of ‘a wooden bridge’, by implication on the River Thames, in the Isle of Wight sketchbook (Tate D20798; Turner Bequest CCXXVII 40a), in use on the island in 1827 but also including sketches which informed the watercolour of the Thameside Hampton Court Palace of about 1827 (private collection),1 engraved in 1829 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impressions: T04550).2 Sketches elsewhere in the same book formed the basis of another colour study of the river at nearby Hampton (Tate D25145; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 23).
Eric Shanes subsequently linked the present study to Old Chelsea Bridge,3 picking up on Finberg’s description of the related Isle of Wight sketch as ‘River scene: Wooden bridge with stone supports, boats and figures (seated) in foreground. Possibly Old Chelsea Bridge’.4 By this Finberg meant Old Battersea Bridge, linking Battersea to Chelsea, as seen in the background of Turner’s copy-drawing of about 1797 (Tate D00857; Turner Bequest XXXII A), and in 1870s paintings by Walter Greaves (1846–1930) and James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) (respectively Tate N04598 and N01959). However, that bridge had wooden piers reinforced above water level with lattices of timbers, whereas Turner’s pencil sketch (D20798) shows solid supports, apparently with timberwork above.
Warrell has since identified the bridge as that at Hampton Court,5 just upstream of the palace. This is confirmed by a watercolour inscribed ‘Hampton Bridge’ by Thomas Rowlandson (1756–1827) showing an almost identical view to Turner’s pencil study, with the bridge springing from enclosed timber piers on the left and the same buildings on the right on the far bank (Victoria and Albert Museum, London).6 The main elements of Turner’s detailed sketch have been translated directly into the colour structure set out in the present work. The bridge has since been replaced and the buildings have not survived.
Warrell notes that Tate D20793 (Turner Bequest CCXXVII 38), a rough tonal pencil study on a page in the Isle of Wight sketchbook prepared with grey wash, shows the same view as D20798. He suggests that the colours in the present work, ‘together with the suggestion of a blustery, cumulus-filled sky’ are comparable with those in the finished Hampton Court Palace, ‘suggesting that the two watercolours were almost certainly painted as part of the same working session’.7
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.395 no.812.
See Warrell 1991, pp.47–8.
Shanes 1997, pp.96, 102, 105.
Finberg 1909, III, p.699.
Warrell 2008, p.111; Warrell 2009, pp.104, 176.
See also variant reproduced as ‘1790: Second Hampton Court Bridge (1778–1866), print by Thomas Rowlandson’ at ‘Hampton Court Bridge’, Where Thames Smooth Waters Glide, accessed 19 March 2013,
Warrell 2009, p.176.

Matthew Imms
March 2013

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