Monday, February 02, 2009

Turner on Nunhead Hill

Tate Britain has a large collection of sketches and notebooks by the artist JMW Turner (1775-1851) including this sketch believed to have been painted from Nunhead Hill looking over towards St Paul's Cathedral.

Turner was obviously spending a lot of time in what is now South East London (then the rural Kent/Surrey border) at this time: in the same period (1796-97) he also painted Lewisham church, a kiln at Lewisham in the snow, a windmill on Blackheath, Greenwich Hospital from Crooms Hill and other local scenes, collected in what is now called the Wilson Sketchbook.

Nunhead Hill is now more commonly known as Nunhead Cemetery. There is still a clear view of St Pauls from the viewing point at the west end of the cemetery (go in the main entrance, turn right and follow the main track as it goes up to hill until you come to a bench facing towards central London). It is possible that the track on the left of the sketch is what is now Brockley Footpath - shown as a well defined track on maps from that time, and now running just outside the cemetery wall.

Misty view of St Pauls from Nunhead Hill/Nunhead Cemetery - I am sure on a clear day a good photographer could do better!

(thanks to Alan McArthur for spotting the Turner picture)

6 comments:

Selby Whittingham said...

Turner's viewpoints round London need a comprehensive survey. www.jmwturner.org

Transpontine said...

Agreed. Looking through the sketches there are a number that are identified as, for instance, Lewisham, without a clear sense of exactly where they were painted.

Anonymous said...

Nothing on this pic in Southwark Libraries' stash of Turner books, but garnered the following local(ish) info: 1. The year after, Turner caused a stir at Foots Cray when staying in his room painting watercolours on a Sunday morning instead of going to church, partic. as he was staying with the local parson. "He worshipped nature with all her beauties, but forgot God his Creator", reported another guest. Quite right, too. 2. The big Trafalgar pic at Greenwich Naval College was commissioned by George IV, but rejected for not being realistic enough (despite Turner constantly reworking the rigging on advice from naval types). Turner, who worked on it for 16 months, was really pissed off. The painting was "banished to Greenwich".

Anonymous said...

What's the point of putting up a photo where you can't even see St Pauls!

Transpontine said...

You can see the dome of St Pauls, albeit a somewhat shadowy spectre in the mist! Like I say if someone can come up with a clearer picture I will happily put it up.

Anonymous said...

wheres the best view of the London skyline for a photo

in Dulwic/Nunhead/Brockley/area

would welcome comments

Dulwich side
-Golf club at Sydenham woods
-One tree Hill
-Top of Hornimum road