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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Old London Bridge and its Vicinity c.1824

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Old London Bridge and its Vicinity c.1824
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 169
Watercolour on white wove paper, 300 x 485 mm
Inscribed in red ink ‘169’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCLXIII – 169’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This colour study relates to a watercolour dated 1824, known as The Port of London (Victoria and Albert Museum, London),1 which was engraved in 1827 as Old London Bridge and Vicinity (Tate impression: T06070) for W.B. Cooke’s projected ‘Views in London and its environs’ scheme (see the Introduction to this section). The connection was recognised by Ian Warrell2 and confirmed by Eric Shanes.3
Warrell describes this study as working out the structure of the finished design,4 which shows the bridge from the east, sunlit on its near side by morning light. Shanes suggests that here Turner ‘obviously toyed with the idea of representing the same stretch of river looking in the opposite direction’.5 This distinction in the viewpoint is arguable, as the present view concentrates on the bridge itself, with its distinctive wide central arch outlined contre-jour against a low sun, but other landmarks such as the church towers in the variant Tate D25160 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 38) are absent.
Given the presence here of suggestions of shipping and figures in the loose, golden-brown strokes in the foreground, just as in D25160 and as developed in the final design into a busy scene of commerce in the Pool of London, it seems likely that the distinction is not in the direction of the view but in the time of day, with the sun sinking in the west. Turner had shown the bridge in close-up silhouette in about 1794 (Tate D00892; Turner Bequest XXXIII U); by this later stage of his career he likely had in mind the classical seaport paintings of Claude Lorrain (1604/5–1682), whom he admired and emulated, often included the sun low over water and architecture;6 compare for example the painting The Decline of the Carthaginian Empire, exhibited in 1817 (Tate N00499).7
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.358 no.514, reproduced.
See Warrell 1991, p.41.
See Shanes 1997, pp.28, 99.
Warrell 1991, p.41
Shanes 1997, p.28.
See Ian Warrell and others, Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery, London 2012.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.100–1 no.135, pl.137 (colour).
Blank; some staining to the bottom half. Inscribed by ?John Ruskin in pencil ‘AB 150 P | O’ towards bottom right; inscribed in pencil ‘CCLXIII | 169’ towards bottom right; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CCLXIII – 169’ towards bottom right.

Matthew Imms
June 2016

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Old London Bridge and its Vicinity c.1824 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, June 2016, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, February 2017, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-old-london-bridge-and-its-vicinity-r1184319, accessed 23 May 2024.