Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Tower of London from the River Thames


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 111 × 190 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCIV 34

Catalogue entry

Inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation, the Tower of London is seen from the River Thames, looking north-east. Of a number of sketches which informed Turner’s watercolour of The Tower of London of about 1825 (private collection),1 this is closest to the finished design in terms of the angles and juxtaposition of the various elements, which are continued a little way onto folio 33 verso opposite (D17817). The arrangement of shipping which fills the foreground of the watercolour is taken from one of the studies on the verso (D17820).
Other Tower views are on folios 29 verso, 30 recto, 35 recto and 36 recto (D17810, D17811, D17821, D17823). For the significance of the subject in terms of a projected series of ‘Views in London and its environs’, see the overall Introduction to the present Thames-related section. The Tower of London was eventually engraved in 1831 for The Literary Souvenir (Tate impression: T06137).
In the background towards the centre, beyond the pointed roof of the Bell Tower turret, is the outline of the clock tower of the Grand Storehouse, which was later destroyed by fire, as recorded by Turner in nine vivid watercolours (Tate D27846–D27854; Turner Bequest CCLXXXIII 1–9); see the Introduction to the 1841 Fire at the Tower of London sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest CCLXXXIII) for that occasion and Turner’s various other treatments of the Tower.
For other London and Thames views in the present book, see under folio 2 recto (D17775).

Matthew Imms
November 2014

Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.358 no.515; detailed accounts of the subject include: Eric Shanes, Turner’s England 1810–38, London 1990, p.272 no.247, Robert Upstone, ‘Salerooms Report’, Turner Society News, no.57, March 1991, p.10, Pieter van der Merwe, ‘“Calais in Twelve Hours”: Turner’s “Tower of London” and the early cross-Channel steam packets’, ibid., pp.11–13, and Ian Warrell in Warrell (ed.), Franklin Kelly and others, J.M.W. Turner, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Art, Washington 2007, pp.112–13 no.75, reproduced in colour.

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