J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Newcastle-on-Tyne 1818

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 2 Recto:
Newcastle-on-Tyne 1818
Turner Bequest CLXVII 2
Pencil on white wove paper, 112 x 186 mm
Inscribed in blue ink ‘2’ top right
Stamped in black ‘CLXVII 2’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Although Turner travelled to Scotland in 1818 specifically to make sketches for Scott’s Provincial Antiquities, and there is generally in the three sketchbooks he took with him a tight focus on that commission, he did take the opportunity when passing through Newcastle to make this view of the city; it is the first recorded sketch that he made on this trip. ‘Newcastle’ is among the places on Turner’s route north listed at the back of the Edinburgh, 1818 sketchbook (Tate D13586; Turner Bequest CLXVI 70a).
While Turner made dozens of sketches for each of his ten Provincial Antiquities subjects, this single view was enough to form the basis of his watercolour Newcastle-on-Tyne, circa 1823 (Tate D18144; Turner Bequest CCVIII K),1 engraved by Thomas Lupton for the first part of the Rivers of England series in 1823 (Tate T04791).2 No plans for the Rivers series are mentioned by Turner or the publisher W.B. Cooke until the 1820s, so it seems likely that this sketch was made speculatively. Although he had no commission to make a picture of Newcastle, Turner probably felt that a good composition could be utilised at some point in the future for one of the topographical series with which he was increasingly involved.
The final watercolour is remarkably close to this on-the-spot sketch, following the original’s dimensions, composition, details and incident. All of the main topographical features are present. Looking west with Gateshead on the left and Newcastle on the right, we look towards the eighteenth-century bridge, since demolished, in the centre of the picture, with the Elswick shot-tower behind it. To the left is the tower of St Mary’s Church (destroyed by fire in 1997), and on the right are the Norman castle, the sharp spire of All Saint’s Church and the steeple of the Church of St Nicholas.3 Even the flag-pole is present is this sketch, although in the watercolour it is brought slightly lower in the composition and is proudly flying the Union Jack. The two boats in the sketch, in the centre and bottom left, are also preserved in the final composition, although the one in the centre has lost its mast, and more vessels have been added. The foreground detail in the watercolour is, however, as Andrew Wilton has pointed out, omitted in the pencil study.4 These details of workmen hauling timber up the bank from a boat may instead derive from a sketch in the Durham, Northshore sketchbook, 1817 (Tate D12324; Turner Bequest CLVII 5). Other details of soldiers relaxing on the bank and women waving to the keelmen are either remembered or imagined.
Turner also sketched Newcastle in 1801 and 1817 in the Helmsley and Durham, Northshore sketchbooks (Tate D02603 and D02604; Turner Bequest LIII 94a and 95; Tate D12320, D12321, D12322, D12323 and D12324; CLVII 2a, 3, 3a, 4 and 5). A watercolour study was also made in preparation for the 1823 design (Tate D25290; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 168).
Ann Chumbley and Ian Warrell have also noticed that the composition is ‘strikingly similar’ to a watercolour of Lausanne, Cathedral and Bridge (Tate D33566; Turner Bequest CCCXXXV 26),5 suggesting that this pencil sketch was also the indirect course of this composition over twenty years later.
Wilton 1979, pp.384–5 no.733.
W[illiam] G[eorge] Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., London 1908 and 1913, vol.II, p.365 no.753.
These buildings and structures are identified by Shanes 1990, pp.103, 284 note 75.
Wilton 1975, p.86.
Chumbley and Warrell 1989, p.53.

Thomas Ardill
February 2008

How to cite

Thomas Ardill, ‘Newcastle-on-Tyne 1818 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, February 2008, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-newcastle-on-tyne-r1132136, accessed 20 May 2022.