Tate Britain

Turner and Gothic Cathedrals

Main Floor Clore Gallery
Joseph Mallord William Turner, ‘Rouen Cathedral’ c.1832
Joseph Mallord William Turner, Rouen Cathedral c.1832. Tate

Uncover Turner’s depictions of cathedrals, including a range of work, from precise drawings to loosely painted watercolours

Turner began his career as an architectural draughtsperson, creating detailed drawings of buildings. He maintained a lifelong interest in architectural subjects. The drawings and watercolours shown here take inspiration from gothic architecture, showcasing the pointed arches and soaring ceilings of medieval cathedrals.

For the first half of Turner’s career travel was disrupted by the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, which began in 1803. As a result his sketching tours were mostly confined to Britain, where there was renewed interest in gothic architecture. Turner sketched and made watercolours of gothic cathedrals across England, including those in Ely, Lincoln and Salisbury. When the Napoleonic Wars finally ended in 1815 he began to look further afield, and from 1817 Turner regularly travelled abroad. He sketched many cathedrals during his continental tours, visiting Belgium, France, Germany and Switzerland


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