Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Pool of London, Looking Towards London Bridge


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Support: 178 × 246 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXX 42

Catalogue entry

This page, which has been attached to the final folio of the sketchbook, never belonged to this sketchbook, but was included with it by Finberg because ‘it is a study for the same subject as that on p.11’ (folio 12; D13826; CLXX 11).1 Peter Bowers has discovered that it is made of a different paper – ‘2-ply laminated with a high glaze (either London or Bristol Board)’ – though he has not associated it with any other sketchbook or group of works.2 A border around the page, faded colours and extensive foxing suggests that the page has been exhibited.
The study, in pencil and brown and blue watercolour, shows a view towards London Bridge from the east near the Tower of London. As in other sketches in this book (folios 10–12; D13824–D13826; CLXX 9–11; see also folios 13 and 14; D13827–D13828; Turner Bequest CLXX 12, 13) the view includes the Custom House at the right and London Bridge at the left. Above the buildings that line the north bank of the Thames are, from left to right, the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, the steeple of St Magnus-the-Martyr, a steeple, (perhaps of St Mary Abchurch or St Margaret Pattens), Monument, and the steeple of St Dunstan-in-the-East.
In the foreground are a number of boats in the Pool of London. Notable among these is a boat to the right of the centre foreground with a figure steering it at its stern with a long paddle. This same figure (or at least the same motif) is seen in the sketch on folio 12, as are the faintly sketched boats at the centre with figures engaged in some activity. Both motifs were taken up in Turner’s painting of The Custom House, London Bridge, circa 1825 (Vancouver Art Gallery),3 which shows a very similar view to the present study.
The subject matter of this study therefore, as Finberg realised, connects it to the other sketches of the Custom House and London Bridge in this sketchbook, and to Turner’s subsequent watercolour. The medium of pencil and brown watercolour wash also suggests that it is connected to the other studies which also use this medium, although the addition of blue watercolour suggests that it may have been made carried out, or at least completed, in the studio rather than in front of the motif. The fact that the paper does not match the rest of the sketchbook also suggests that it was made on a different occasion. A likely explanation is therefore that the work is an early study for the watercolour, based on sketches in the Scotland and London sketchbook.
Finberg 1909, I, p.493, CLXX 42.
Peter Bowers, MS ‘Turner Catalogue files’, Tate Britain.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, pp.358–9 no.516.

Thomas Ardill
August 2009

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