Turner’s earliest experience of the Leeds area came on his tour of the North of England in 1797; on that occasion he focused on the conventional subjects of Kirkstall Abbey, then in a rural setting three miles west of the town, and the Harewood House estate, about seven miles north.1 He visited Kirkstall again in 1808 and 1809 (see the Kirkstall and Kirkstall Lock sketchbooks; Tate; Turner Bequest CVII, CLV), but despite several extended visits to Walter Fawkes at Farnley Hall about ten miles to the north-west (see the sketchbook’s Introduction), he only turned his attention to the town itself in the present book.
The viewpoint for this panoramic view north over the industrial town centre of Leeds (now a largely post-industrial West Yorkshire city) is ‘the shoulder of Beeston Hill’, and can be approximated today from the open ground on the west side of Beeston Road between Lodge Lane and Coupland Street.2 David Hill has described this as ‘one of the few viewpoints from which the whole extent of the city can be comprehended, stretching west along the river [Aire] towards Armley and Kirkstall and east towards Swillington and Castleford’;3 the 1806 Leeds Guide described this scene: ‘Perhaps the most pleasing view of Leeds’.4 It mentions the ‘elegant buildings’ and churches, but not the mills; businesses had doubled in twenty years, and the population had increased by 50 per cent to 75,000, driven by the demand for textiles during the Napoleonic Wars.5 The view, drawn with great concentration to the very left-hand edge of the present page, is then continued to the left on folio 47 verso (D09832; Turner Bequest CXXXIV 38), and immediately to the right on folio 49 recto opposite (D09884; Turner Bequest CXXXIV 80).
As has long been recognised,6 the drawing was faithfully followed in Turner’s 1816 watercolour Leeds (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven),7 as discussed below. Its intricate cityscape can be matched building for building with the sketch, although the road and figures are not indicated here, and were only roughly suggested in a separate, summary sketch on folio 47 recto (D09833; Turner Bequest CXXXIV 38a), and the range of buildings in the foreground becomes slightly truncated. The left-hand edge of the present drawing corresponds precisely with the limit of the view transcribed in the watercolour, in which the prospect extends further to the right, following about half of the limited continuation of the drawing on folio 49 recto. John Ruskin described the view as ‘one of the most minutely finished pencil outlines in the collection.’8 Compare also the rapid sketches from similar viewpoints on folios 81 verso and 82 recto (D09831, D09841; Turner Bequest CXXXIV 37a, 45a), including indications of figures which may have prompted ideas for some of those shown in the watercolour.
For an overview, see David Hill, Turner in the North: A Tour through Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Durham, Northumberland, the Scottish Borders, the Lake District, Lancashire and Lincolnshire in the Year 1797, New Haven and London 1996, pp.22–9, 152–61.
See Hill 2008, p.103; for Hill’s photographs of the ever-changing view see p.3 (1992) and pl.95 (2006).
See Cook and Wedderburn 1904, pp.254, 633; see also Finberg 1909, I, p.383, Butlin, Wilton and Gage 1974, p.82, White 1977, p.77, Wilton 1979, p.362, Hawes 1982, p.200, Hawcroft 1983, p., Daniels 1986, pp.10, 11, Chumbley and Warrell 1989, p.46.
Wilton 1979, p.362 no.544, reproduced.
Catalogue of the Sketches and Drawings by J.M.W. Turner, R.A. Exhibited in Marlborough House in the Year 1857–8 in Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.254.
Hill 1984, p.104.
Hill 2008, p.114.
Ibid., pp.114, 124.
Ibid., p.109; discussions of the socio-economic aspects of the watercolour include Hill 1984, p.104, Daniels 1986, pp.10–17, Eric Shanes, Turner’s England 1810–38, London 1990, p.78, Rodner 1997, pp.87–94, Hamilton 1998, p.92, Gillian Forrester in John Baskett and others, Paul Mellon’s Legacy: A Passion for British Art, exhibition catalogue, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven 2007, pp.283–4 no.88, and Hill 2008, pp.135–52.
See Rodner 1997 in general for a detailed survey of Turner’s industrial subjects.
See Rodner 1997, p.94.
See Hill 2008, p.188 note 34.
W[illiam] G[eorge] Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., vol.I, London 1908, p.cxiv, and vol.II, London 1913, pp.214, 407 no.833.
J.R. Piggott, ‘Turner among the Landscape Engravers: I: Chiaroscuro, Copper, Stone and Wood’, Turner Society News, No.121, Spring 2014, p.13.
Rawlinson I 1908, p.cxiv; see also Luke Herrmann, Turner Prints: The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 1990, p.76, but also p.274.
Rawlinson II 1913, p.407 no.833.
See White 1977, p.77, Hawes 1982, p.200, Daniels 1986, pp.10, 12, 17, Shanes 1990, p.78, Rodner 1997, p.94, Gillian Forrester in John Baskett and others, Paul Mellon’s Legacy: A Passion for British Art, exhibition catalogue, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven 2007, p.284 no.88, Hill 2008, pp.136–8.
See Piggott 2014, p.13.
See Robert Upstone, Allnutt, John (1773–1863)’ in in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Herrmann (eds.), The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, p.5.
See Piggott 2014, pp.13–14.
See ibid., p.14.