Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Thames above Waterloo Bridge


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 905 × 1210 mm
frame: 1138 × 1457 × 82 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Display caption

This unfinished painting takes us to the heart of the smoky commercial capital which, though a Londoner by birth and resident for most of his life, Turner usually preferred to depict from a distance. Here he looks along the Thames towards Waterloo Bridge, designed by John Rennie and opened in 1817, two years after the Battle of Waterloo.

Turner’s view dates from the 1830s and he was perhaps planning a response in kind to John Constable’s Opening of Waterloo Bridge (Tate), which appeared at the Royal Academy in 1832.

Gallery label, February 2010

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Catalogue entry

523. [N01992] The Thames above Waterloo Bridge c. 1830–5


Canvas, 35 5/8 × 47 5/8 (90·5 × 121)

Coll. Turner Bequest 1856; transferred to the Tate Gallery 1906.

Exh. Venice and Rome 1948 (43); Rotterdam 1955 (60); Edinburgh 1968 (3); R.A. 1974–5 (435).

Lit. MacColl 1920, p. 31.

Datable for stylistic reasons to the early 1830s, it is just possible that this was projected as Turner's answer to Constable's picture of Waterloo Bridge from Whitehall Stairs, June 18th, 1817, exhibited at the R.A. in 1832. The effect of smoke-belching industry contrasts with the sparkling clear atmosphere of the Constable, and a large twin-funnelled steam-boat replaces the royal yacht. The possibility of Turner setting out to rival this particular Constable is reinforced by the incident that took place during the 1832 Varnishing Days, when Turner's Helvoetsluys, a relatively subdued picture, was hung next to Constable's painting (see No. 345).

Published in:
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984

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