Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Pool of London, with the Custom House


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 177 × 256 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXX 11

Catalogue entry

This sketch, along with folio 11 (D13825; CLXX 10) and a sketch in the Tabley sketchbook No.3, (Tate D07041; Turner Bequest CV41a) formed the basis of a watercolour and subsequent engraving called The Custom House, London Bridge, circa 1825 (Vancouver Art Gallery).1 The point from which this sketch was made from a boat or wharf to the south-east of the Custom House is almost the same as the watercolour, although in that picture the building is seen from a more oblique angle as in folio 11. Various landmarks are visible in the sketch including Christopher Wren’s steeple of St Dunstan-in-the-East above the Custom House at the right, with Monument to the Great Fire of London behind the left corner of the building, and the steeple of St Magnus-the-Martyr and the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral to the left. At the very left of the sketch can be seen a few arches of London Bridge. These features are all retained in the watercolour, although the relative positions of St Paul’s and St Magnus are reversed, reflecting the change of viewpoint.
As in the sketch, the watercolour contains substantial shipping, and the figure of a lighterman drawn in brown wash steering a boat with a paddle is adopted, though in a different pose, in the painting.2 Figures in boats faintly drawn in pencil in the centre foreground of the sketch may have influenced the two figures pulling in or laying a heavy cable in the Custom House watercolour. There are also similar figures faintly sketched in the foreground of folio 43 (D13858; CLXX 42).
This study is made in a combination of pencil and brown watercolour wash. Turner has washed in the sky and water with clouds and reflections carefully left blank or sponged off. Pencil was used for the outlines of buildings and figures and for architectural details. Turner also used less diluted brown watercolour for boats and other details.
For further information see folio 11.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, pp.358–9 no.516.
This figure may have contributed towards Finberg’s misidentification of this sketch and others in the book as Venice as he somewhat resembles a gondolier. See Finberg 1909, I, p.493, CLXX 11.

Thomas Ardill
August 2009

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