Joseph Mallord William Turner

Perth, Courthouse and Waterworks


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 119 × 184 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXII 41

Catalogue entry

Described by Finberg as a ‘river with [a] mansion and monument’,1 David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan have identified this sketch as a view south along the River Tay and Tay Street in Perth.2 The ‘mansion’ is in fact the classically columned and porticoed Sherriff Courthouse built by Sir Robert Smirke (1780–1867) in 1819. What Finberg took to be a monument is in fact an elaborate chimney belonging to Perth Waterworks, a pumping station designed by Adam Anderson (circa 1780–1846). The station’s water tank was housed in a classical domed rotunda. The building now houses the Fergusson Gallery. Turner drew the chimney twice on this page, once in context next to the rotunda, and again above as a larger sketch that shows the ornamental urn topping the chimney. At the left of the sketch, across the River Tay, is Kinnoull Hill. Wallace-Hadrill and Carolan suggested that the sketch was made from Perth Bridge, but that is perhaps too far away. Instead it was made from the river bank near the junction of South Street and Tay Street, where the modern South Street Bridge now stands. On the reverse of this page is a sketch of the view looking in the opposite direction up the River Tay: folio 31 (D26745; CCLXXII 41a).
These are the only two sketches that Turner made of the town (formerly designated a city), although he made numerous sketches of the nearby Kinfauns Castle (folios 27 verso, 28, 29; D26724, D26722, D26721; CCLXXII 31, 30, 29a) and Kinnoull Tower (folios 27 verso, 28 verso, 30 and 30 verso; D26724, D26723, D26747, D26746; CCLXXII 31, 30a, 42a, 42). Kinfauns may have been of particular interest to Turner as it was designed by his friend Sir Robert Smirke.3
Turner visited Perth during an excursion undertaken to collect subjects to illustrate new editions of the works of Sir Walter Scott, and it may have been Scott’s novel The Fair Maid of Perth (or St. Valentine’s Day), 1828, that led Turner to the town and the nearby Kinfauns Castle. In the event, the artist did not execute any finished pictures of Perth; see Tour of Scotland for Scott’s Prose Works 1834 Tour Introduction.

Thomas Ardill
October 2010

Finberg 1909, II, p.874, CCLXXII 41.
Wallace-Hadrill and Carolan 1990, p.22.
David Wallace-Hadrill, ‘1834 Tour’, [circa 1991], Tate catalogue files, folio 5.

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