Joseph Mallord William Turner

Two Views near Louvain, with a Railway Viaduct under Construction


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 94 × 154 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXXVII 8

Catalogue entry

Belgium’s first railway main line, between Brussels and Malines, was opened on May 5, 1835.1 By 1843 the government had extended the railway system to reach the major east-west and north-south axes which included the construction of a connection running towards the German frontier via Louvain and Liège. 2 It is the building of this connection, in particular the railway viaduct for the extension, which Turner depicts on the present drawing, according to Cecilia Powell.3
With the sketchbook orientated horizontally, Turner has drawn two profiles of the landscape running across the page. In the lower of these sketches, a small group of figures at the right appear to be hauling on ropes, perhaps attached to the small cart at the very periphery of the page. The figures appear again directly above in the upper sketch, though far more roughly wrought. Perhaps they are labourers moving construction materials on the viaduct site.
The surrounding topography has been loosely suggested and includes a square tower and the profile of the Louvain in the distance. For other views of Louvain in this sketchbook see Tate D28044–D28047, D28049, D28050, D28059–D28064; Turner Bequest CCLXXXVII 2a–3a, 4a, 5, 9a–12.

Alice Rylance-Watson
April 2013

‘Belgium’s Steel Network: The Most Concentrated System in the World’, Mike’s Railway History: A Look at Railways in 1935 & Before,, accessed 16 April 2013.
Powell 1991, Appendix, p.213.

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