Daniel Turner

Old Battersea Bridge showing the Malt Mill

c.1805

Not on display

Artist
Daniel Turner active 1782–1801
Medium
Oil paint on mahogany panel
Dimensions
Support: 420 × 640 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Transferred from Weymouth Museum, Dorset 2017
Reference
T14891

Summary

This painting dating from around 1805 shows a scene on the south bank of the River Thames at Battersea, looking west, with the old wooden Battersea Bridge, erected in 1771, in the middle ground, and The Swan, a substantial red-brick inn, to the left; beyond, stands the imposing white tower of the horizontal windmill, with the top part of the spire of St Mary’s Church visible behind trees. Daniel Turner lived and worked in Horseferry, Millbank, just a few moments’ walk from where the present-day Tate Britain stands. He specialised in scenes of the river Thames, particularly views taken near his home, and exhibited and published many views of this kind. The mill was a notable local landmark. It had been built in 1788 for Thomas Fowler, an oil and colour merchant, and was first used for crushing linseed for a few years before, in 1792, being annexed to the extensive adjacent maltings and distillery owned by John Hodgson, and being put to use grinding corn and malt. The white tower contained a forty-metre-high machine, comprising horizontal ‘floats, as in the wheel of a water-mill’ which when the shutters were opened turned to generate power, ‘even where there is little wind’ (Daniel Lysons, The Environs of London, vol.1, London 1792, p.47). While the horizontal windmill attracted much interest for its ingenuity, it is unclear how effective it actually was, and the fact that Hodgson purchased a steam engine in the 1790s suggests he needed an additional source of power for his distillery. The tower was dismantled in 1827, having become unstable. Battersea Bridge and the horizontal windmill were painted, from the east, by J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851) a few years earlier, around 1797 (Battersea Church and Bridge, with Chelsea Beyond, Tate D00857).

Daniel Turner remains an obscure figure and is sometimes identified as ‘David’ or even ‘Edward Turner’. He was said to have been a pupil of the mezzotint engraver John Jones (c.1740–1797), and produced etchings as well as paintings. He had been evaluated as ‘A “Little Master” of London views, which he executed in a careful, even minute manner, with great delicacy of drawing.’ (Waterhouse 1952, p.29.) Many of his compositions are known in multiple versions. He appears to have exhibited at the Free Society of Artists in London from 1781, and at the Royal Academy in London from 1796–1801, although he continued to work after that latter date as signed works of a similar appearance to this painting and prints are dated 1804–6. A similar view of Battersea Bridge is known, dated 1804 (offered at auction at Christie’s South Kensington, 3 September 2012, lot 19); another was exhibited at the Burlington Fine Arts Club, London in 1929–30 from the collection of Mr F.A. White. The careful handling of paint and use of a wooden panel in Old Battersea Bridge are characteristic of other late works by the artist, such as Old London Bridge (date not known, Tate N05784), a work painted after Samuel Scott’s (c.1702–1772) A View of London Bridge before the Late Alterations (engraved 1758, Tate N00313).

Further reading
E.K. Waterhouse, Early English Landscapes from Colonel Grant’s Collection, exhibition catalogue, Arts Council 1952, p.29.
Maurice Harold Grant, A Chronological History of the Old English Landscape Painters, vol.5, Leigh-on-Sea 1959, pp.366–7.
Andrew Saint (ed.), Battersea, Part 1: Public, Commercial and Cultural, Survey of London, vol.49, New Haven and London 2013, pp.347–9.

Martin Myrone
December 2016

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