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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“The Burning of the Houses of Parliament” by J.M.W. Turner

"The Burning of the Houses of Parliament" by J.M.W. Turner

“The Burning of the Houses of Parliament”

by J.M.W. Turner

“The Burning of the Houses of Parliament” by J. M. W. Turner depicts the fire that broke out at the Houses of Parliament in 1834. Turner himself witnessed the Burning of Parliament from the south bank of the River Thames, opposite Westminster. The painting shows the Houses of Parliament overwhelmed in golden flames which are consuming the chamber of the House of Commons. This depiction is the view from downstream, close to Waterloo Bridge and shows the fire and smoke blowing dramatically over the Thames as the London spectators look on from the river bank and boats.

Turner made multiple sketches using both pencil and watercolour in two sketchbooks from different vantage points, including from a boat. Turner also painted an earlier painting in the same year, on the same subject, with a perspective from further upstream, next to Westminster Bridge.

The colours and composition of these paintings may have influenced Turner’s conception of his later painting of “The Fighting Temeraire”, which also depicts the passing of an old order. Many of Turner’s paintings can be found in museums across the world, depict famous landscapes and seascapes.

Joseph Mallord William Turner

Joseph Mallord William Turner, later more commonly called J. M. W. Turner entered the Royal Academy of Art in 1789, aged 14, and his first watercolour was accepted for the Royal Academy summer exhibition of 1790 when Turner was 15. From a young art student trained in executing topographical watercolours, he became one of the most original artists of his time. Turner was a Romantic painter, printmaker and watercolourist, today known for his vivid colouration, imaginative landscapes and turbulent marine paintings. As a private, eccentric and reclusive figure, Turner was controversial throughout his career. He left over 2,000 paintings and 19,000 drawings and sketches.

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The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons

  • Title:                  The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons
  • Artist:                 J.M.W. Turner
  • Year:                  1835
  • Medium:           Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:      92 × 123 cm (36.2 × 48.4 in)
  • Museum:            Cleveland Museum of Art

Joseph Mallord William Turner

Reflections

  • Turner avoided having his portrait painted because he thought that “nobody would believe such an ugly fellow made such beautiful things.”

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J. M. W. Turner Quotes

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“I don’t paint so that people will understand me, I paint to show what a particular scene looks like.”

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“Nobody would believe such an ugly fellow made such beautiful things.”

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“If I could find anything blacker than black, I’d use it.”

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“My business is to paint what I see, not what I know is there.”

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“It is only when we are no longer fearful that we begin to create.”

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“I have no secret but hard work. This is a secret that many never learn, and they don’t succeed because they don’t learn it.”

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Labour is the genius that changes the world from ugliness to beauty, and the great curse to a great blessing.

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“To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.”
– Benjamin Franklin

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Photo Credit: 1) J. M. W. Turner [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 2) J. M. W. Turner [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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