Joseph Mallord William Turner

Liverpool from Birkenhead


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 59 × 96 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXV 3 a

Catalogue entry

These sketches, the bottom of which continues a little on folio 4 (D25649), are some of a handful of sketches scattered throughout the Berwick sketchbook of a large town seen from across a river or estuary: folios 37 verso, 52–53 and 55 (D25709, D25735–D25737, D25741). The subject and some of the buildings depicted in these sketches resemble views of Liverpool from across the Mersey in the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border sketchbook, which Turner used concurrently with the present book (see Tate D25773–D25774; Turner Bequest CCLXVI 6a–7).
On this page are four views of the town. The top sketch includes windmills at the left, a wharf with the masts of boats at the centre and a church spire and dome towards the right. These features can all be seen in the Minstrelsy view. The dome may belong to the church of St Paul (St Paul’s Square). The second sketch includes at the left a church steeple that resembles that of St Martin-in-the-Fields (no longer extant). This, along with the steeple of St George in Everton, may be shown again in the third sketch. At the bottom of the page is a view looking further east with Prince’s Dock and the same windmill that is seen at the right of the Minstrelsy sketch.1
A number of sketches of shipping in the present sketchbook may have been made around the Mersey, although there is no topographical or architectural information to confirm this, and Berwick-upon-Tweed or Leith are also possibilities: folios 10, 17 verso–18, 62 verso, 64 verso (D25659, D25671–D25672, D25755, D25759). Likewise the unidentified coastal sketches in this book may have also been made at this time, though, again, there is no topographical or architectural proof: folios 5, 25 verso and 54 (D25651, D25687, D25739).

Thomas Ardill
May 2010

For more information on Turner’s visit to Liverpool and his sketches in the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border sketchbook, see Thomas Ardill, ‘Turner in Liverpool, 1831’, Turner Society News, no.112, August 2009, pp.12–14.

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