Posts Tagged ‘JMW Turner’

A Year of Turner & the Thames by Roger Williams – guest review by LH Member Jane Young.

turnerthamesIt is almost enough to simply say this little book is absolutely enchanting and you should certainly rush out and buy it.

It is a journey, but also a journal, of a year spent tracing the footsteps of Joseph Mallord William Turner. The beautiful narration draws together several threads, charting the life and times of Turner and visits made in pursuit of this, interwoven with entertaining accounts of encounters on the way.

A Tardis of a book, measuring just 15cm square, packed to brimming with inventories and insightful descriptions of collections pertaining to the work of Turner across England. The reader travels with the author, visiting the haunts of Turner and his contemporaries, taking in galleries, museums, archives, stately homes and some rather nice public houses alongside some that are no longer what they were.

An added bonus are the author’s own illustrations. Described on the frontispiece as ‘drawings are attempted’ the finely executed sketches and watercolours contained within are accomplished and delightful.

In part biography, part catalogue and part history, all meticulously researched, this story of a year is immensely readable in exquisite attention to detail enhanced with snippets of personal memories that resonate with the places visited.

turner stuff

A book for anyone interested in an introduction to JMW Turner; for anyone who already knows about Turner; for anyone interested in London History; for anyone interested in Art History; for anyone interested in art and illustration; for anyone interested in the Thames; for anyone who would just like something delightful to read and pleasing to look at: This little book is enchanting and you should certainly rush out and buy it.

A Year of Turner & the Thames (216pp) by Roger Williams is published by Bristol Book Publishing with a cover price of £15.

Read Full Post »

A guest post by Roger Williams, LH Member.

1. Exterior

Sandycombe Lodge, the country house that JMW Turner built in 1813 in Twickenham behind Marble Hill, is now open to the public for the first time. It had been bought in a run-down state in 1947 by Professor Harold Livermore, an Hispanic scholar, and his wife Ann, who wrote about Spanish music, and they immediately began trying to restore what had been a small wartime factory. On his death in 2010, Professor Leverhulme bequeathed their house to the nation. Now, after a £2.4 million conservation effort, it has been brought back to what is believed to be as near as can be to Turner’s original home. This involved knocking down extensions, removing external white rendering and uncovering the initial decoration, including marbling on the stairway. The house was designed by Turner, but if some of the detailing echoes Sir John Soane’s house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, it is because the two were friends and contemporaries, Turner being appointed the Royal Academy’s Professor of Perspective just a year after Soane was made Professor of Architecture.


On first sight it is an unprepossessing, late-Georgian villa, with just two first-floor bedrooms. The larger one is at the back, facing Marble Hill House and the Thames, and although the view is now constricted by subsequent developments, a telescope has been installed (above) through which visitors can spy a re-created picture of the view Turner saw in his day.


In the basement is the kitchen and range (above), the domaine of Turner’s ‘Old Dad’ who looked after the house and garden until he was 80. His father had been a barber and wig-maker in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, where Turner was born on St George’s Day, 1775, and had tirelessly promoted and helped his only child. Turner’s mother had died in Bethlem Hospital nine years before Sandycombe Lodge was built, and William Sr continued to help in the running of Turner’s Gallery in Marylebone, hitching lifts into town for the 10-mile journey.

4.Eel pots

Nothing in the house is labelled, and visitors, in limited numbers, are shown around by knowledgeable guides such as Ken Osbourne, pictured here in the kitchen with fishing rod and eel trap. These and the late-Georgian items of furniture, such as the ‘Turkey’ rugs, have been hunted down by Catherine Parry-Wingfield, Chair of the Turner’s House Trust, who has been instrumental in creating the house-museum.

5. Turnerships

Prints on the walls include some from Turner’s teaching manual, the Liber Studorium, from Professor Livermore’s own collection, but there are no original artworks. Turner bequeathed his drawings and paintings to the nation, and these are now in changing displays in Richard Sterling’s 1986 Clore Wing of Tate Britain, while the Royal Academy has his fishing rods and paint boxes. Security issues mean these cannot be loaned, although, Parry-Wingfield is hopeful that this may one day happen.

The Tate also has custody of the model boats Turner owned and used as aids to his paintings. The Trust commissioned variations of two of them from model maker Kevin Thatcher to go on display in the sitting room . Many of these were originally made by French prisoners during the Napoleonic wars.

Turner was a keen fishermen, but the enormous pond he created, apparently almost the size of a football pitch and stocked with fish, has long since disappeared beneath urban housing. He sometimes went fishing with his friend Soane, both self-made men, both at times socially uneasy and irascible. But Turner enjoyed gatherings, too, and a cunning key in the door of a longcase clock in the dining room starts a recording of an account of a picnic enjoyed by Turner and his friends on Ham Common on the opposite side of the river.

Turner was also instrumental in starting the Royal Academy Dining Club’s annual river jaunts which began at Eel Pie House in Twickenham, not far from Sandycombe Lodge in 1818. Five years later Turner proposed they went to the Crown and Sceptre in Greenwich, which was famous for its whitebait dinners. The RA Dining Club’s annual Whitebait Dinner has continued ever since, now taking place during the Summer Exhibition under the enthusiastic eye of the RA’s current CEO, Charles Saumarez Smith, whose recent blog gives a report of this year’s outings and the riverside architecture seen en-route to Greenwich.

For details and opening hours, see http://turnershouse.org

Roger Williams’ latest book is Whitebait and the Thames Fisheries.


Read Full Post »

A guest post by London Historians member, Jane Young. (@sketchesbyboz on Twitter)

On Saturday last, members of London Historians paid a visit to J M W Turner’s country retreat in Twickenham. Built on a plot of land Turner purchased in 1807, Sandycombe Lodge, originally Solus Lodge, was designed by Turner, probably assisted with advice from his friend, Sir John Soane.

An unpretentious property, once in open land, now within a street of suburban villas but nonetheless enchanting and all the more interesting due to its current situation as a work in progress. London Historians embarked on a tour of the house undertaken by Catherine Parry-Wingfield whose expert knowledge of Turner and the history of Sandycombe Lodge, along with great enthusiasm for the restoration project is limitless. Fully engaging the audience with a thorough and entertaining narrative of the design of the house, the domestic arrangements of Turner and his household, continuing onto the story of the house following sale by Turner in 1826 and the subsequent campaign to preserve this lovely building for the nation by the late Professor Livermore who acquired and rescued it in the years following the Second World War.

turner's house

Turner’s House. View from the garden.

turner's house

London Historians: defiant and undaunted by the damp.

The Sandycombe Lodge Trust acquired the house in 2010 and continues the preservation work to restore Turner’s House to its original layout as a work of art by Turner. Open the first Saturday of each month until October 2012 the house is well worth a visit to see the eclectic charms of the villa, many of which are unchanged since Turner’s time, and in doing so experience the first stage of this important work and support the charity that is endeavouring to return it to that period.

Given that London Historians do not do things by halves, we then continued up the road and across the park to Marble Hill House for our second visit of the day. In contrast to our first visit, Marble Hill House is grand and imposing standing within sixty six acres of parkland near Richmond.

marble hill house

Marble Hill House. Picture by Jane Young

Commissioned by Henrietta Howard, mistress of the Prince of Wales, later King George II, building commenced 1724 in the then new Palladian style. An immaculately restored building under the direction of English Heritage, we enjoyed a beautifully executed tour of Marble Hill by house manager Rheme Fordham.

The architectural detail and design of the property; the life and times of Henrietta Howard and her visitors, of which included Alexander Pope and Horace Walpole; the history of the furniture and contents; the acquisition of an incredible mahogany staircase almost causing war with Spain; were all chronicled with great attention to detail. An integral part of the enthralling story of Marble Hill House is a most impressive art collection, with plenty of time allowed at the end of the tour to enable visitors to browse this at leisure.

marble hill house, english heritage

Marble Hill House interior: Henrietta adored chinoiserie. Picture: English Heritage Photo Library

marble hill house, english heritage

Marble Hill House interior. Picture: English Heritage Photo Library.

marble hill

Happy Historians. Marble Hill has an excellent tea shop.

So two very different villas and, made all the more memorable by being viewed consecutively illustrating the significant contrast in architectural style, quite aside of the convenience of being very closely situated should you be in that neck of the woods.

Editor’s Note: Further images on Turner’s House in a previous post, here.

Read Full Post »

From today, new members will get a different design of card. Our problem is selecting a lovely image, that problem being, of course, that there are so many to choose from. Here’s what we have so far, but would love to hear suggestions. Stipulations are: must be London (obviously) and a design consideration: needs an empty swathe (eg sky) top right to accommodate London Historians logo. I suppose the logo might be able to go bottom right in front of an empty piece of street or river, say.

london historians card designs

Greenwich by JMW Turner

london historians card designs

The Fleet River, Fleet Bridge and St Bride's by Samuel Scott

london historians card designs

St James's Palace by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd

london historians card designs

St Paul's by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd

london historians card designs

Old Westminster Bridge (when new) by Canaletto

Update: A Twitter follower, @thorn_waite made some useful design comments, resulting in this:

What do reckon?

Read Full Post »

turner's house

Turner's Twickenham villa

Last night I went to the monthly meeting of my local history society, The Brentford and Chiswick. We were given a talk by art  historian Catherine Parry-Wingfield who is deeply involved in the restoration and eventual opening of Turner’s Twickenham House: Sandycombe Lodge. This is a very exciting development for all who are remotely interested in our country’s greatest painter, who is, of course, a “Londoner of Note”.

Sandycombe Lodge (as it became known) was owned this past 60 years by Professor Harold Livermore, who on his death last February, bequeathed it to the Sandycombe Lodge Trust, the aim being to establish the house as a monument to Turner’s life in Twickenham.

Turner completed the building in 1812 and lived there with his father William until 1826. The influence of his close friend Sir John Soane was strong. Turner used his country villa as a base to go on sketching trips locally as his many Thames riverside works testify.

In support of Professor Livermore’s plan for the building, The Friends of Turner’s House was founded in 2004.

Read Full Post »