Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lecture Diagram 6: St George’s Church, Bloomsbury, London


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Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 708 × 348 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCV 144

Display caption

Lecture Diagram 6 is a carefully coloured and shaded elevation of the northern porch of St. George's Church in Bloomsbury, London (built by Nicholas Hawksmoor, about 1720–30).

Turner produced this watercolour to show how the stepped tower had been designed to accommodate the sculpture of George I so that it could be seen by the spectator at street level.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

In Lecture 1 as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy, Turner presented two diagrams of St George’s, Bloomsbury, built by Nicholas Hawksmoor, completed 1731. Based on notes and sketches in his Windmill and Lock sketchbook (Tate D07973, D08043, D08046, D08047, D08063; Turner Bequest CXIV 10, 64, 66, 67, 76 verso), Diagram 6 is a carefully coloured and shaded elevation of the building’s northern porch and stepped spire. The spire, enclosing a miniature temple, is said to have been Hawksmoor’s fantasy on a description by Pliny of the mausoleum at Helicarnassus. Hawksmoor topped his spire with a statue of King George I.
The diagram illustrates Turner’s discussion in Lecture 1 of why students should be well grounded in the rules of perspective when designing sculpture and architecture, and make allowances for visual distortion. First, Turner points out that ‘proportion is positively marked in the spire of Bloomsbury where the steps comprising it increase as they recede from the eye’.1 The circular pedestal upon which the statue of George I (mistakenly called George II by Turner) rests helps to preserve the ‘pyramidal line complete to within 17 feet of the angle of the tower’. The sculptor has also considered the proportions of the figure so that its neck and head form a proper apex to the spire. Turner contrasts this diagram to another drawing of St George’s (Tate D17116; Turner Bequest CXCV 145), which shows the church from the south and at a steep angle from below in order to demonstrate how the tower and statue appear foreshortened to a spectator at street level.
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 J folio 8 verso. For an earlier version of the discussion, see MS K folio 8 verso–9.
Indications of transfer process and inscriptions by unknown hands in pencil ‘38’ bottom left and ‘CXCV – 144’ bottom centre and in black ink ‘CXCV – 144’ bottom left.

Andrea Fredericksen
June 2004

Supported by The Samuel H. Kress Foundation

Revised by David Blayney Brown
January 2012

Read full Catalogue entry

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