Joseph Mallord William Turner

London: York House Water-Gate, Westminster, with York Buildings Waterworks


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 298 × 419 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XXVII W

Display caption

As a young artist, Turner developed a meticulous style to describe architectural antiquities. In this unfinished work, he has applied the same style to an urban subject. The tall structure that dominates this scene was the water tower at what is now the Embankment, in London.

The crowded jumble of the modern city was a challenging subject for artists. It lacked the more established historical or poetic associations of old buildings, and tended to lead to images that were more descriptive than evocative.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

This sheet is a remarkable document of Turner’s technical advance in the year 1794. The background houses are seen through an urban vapour very subtly rendered. The hugger-mugger combination of classical architecture, vernacular building and the multifarious life of wharf and riverside is a characteristic Turnerian theme; see Tate D00171 and D00373 (Turner Bequest XVI I, XXII T). For another London view exhibiting new technical facility see Tate D00696 (Turner Bequest XXVIII K).

Andrew Wilton
April 2012

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