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Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1775–1851
Materials & Techniques:
Watercolor, scraping out and pen and black ink on medium, slightly textured, cream wove paper
Sheet: 11 1/2 x 17 inches (29.2 x 43.2 cm)

Signed in graphite, lower left: "JMW Turner RA 1816"

Inscribed in graphite, verso, lower left: " [...]

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
cityscape | dogs (animals) | factories | genre subject | laborers | landscape | stones | walls
Associated Places:
England | Europe | Leeds | United Kingdom | Yorkshire
Accessible by appointment in the Study Room [Request]
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IIIF Manifest:

Of all the British landscape artists of the Romantic period, Turner was the most fascinated by modernity, and many of his images chronicle technological advances. While touring Yorkshire in 1816 to gather material for Thomas Dunham Whitaker’s “The History of Yorkshire”, Turner visited Leeds, the hub of the nation’s wool and flax industries, and made meticulous graphite sketches of the city, which he elaborated into this watercolor on his return to London. Turner’s remarkable drawing celebrates the economic success and resilience of Leeds—and by extension, that of Britain—in the immediate aftermath of the wars with Napoleon. As Stephen Daniels has noted in his penetrating analysis of the watercolor, to which this entry is indebted, Turner’s image is a complex and richly allusive portrayal of a rapidly developing industrial city, an amalgam of sources rather than a straightforward topographical record (Daniels, 1986, 1993).
The watercolor, which depicts the city from Beeston Hill, about a mile and half south of the city, draws on the conventions of the prospect or panorama, a well-established genre for representing urban development and prosperity. Daniels has suggested convincingly that Turner used two eighteenth-century sources, Samuel Buck’s 1720 engraved prospect of Leeds and an allegorical poem by John Dyer, “The Fleece”, which details the processes of wool manufacture and offers a vision of Britain united through labor. With similar patriotic intention, though perhaps not without ambivalence, Turner mapped the smoky industrial landscape of Leeds, placing John Marshall’s flax mill at the center of his composition and carefully differentiating its figures’ occupations—tentermen hanging cloth to dry, masons, milk carriers, and a millworker carrying a roll of cloth. It is likely that Turner intended “Leeds” to be engraved for Whitaker's publication, but it was not included, perhaps because its industrial subject matter was considered unsuitable for this somewhat conservative publication. The watercolor was published in 1823, translated, appropriately, into the modern medium of lithography.

Gillian Forrester

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's legacy, a passion for British art : masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, pp. 283-84, no. 88, pl. 88, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA).

Thomas Cole's Journey - Atlantic Crossings (The National Gallery, London, 2018-06-13 - 2018-10-07) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Thomas Cole's Journey - Atlantic Crossings (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2018-01-29 - 2018-05-13) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

An American's Passion for British Art - Paul Mellon's Legacy (Royal Academy of Arts, 2007-10-20 - 2008-01-27) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Paul Mellon's Legacy : A Passion for British Art (Yale Center for British Art, 2007-04-18 - 2007-07-29) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

An American's Passion for British Art - Paul Mellon's Legacy (Yale Center for British Art, 2007-04-18 - 2007-07-29) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Metropole London 1800 - 1840 (Kulturstiftung Ruhr, 1992-06-04 - 1992-11-08) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Presences of Nature - British Landscape 1780-1830 (Yale Center for British Art, 1982-10-20 - 1983-02-27) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Turner and the Sublime (British Museum, 1981-05-15 - 1981-09-20) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Turner and the Sublime (Yale Center for British Art, 1981-02-11 - 1981-04-19) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Turner and the Sublime (Art Gallery of Ontario, 1980-11-01 - 1981-01-04) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

English Landscape (Paul Mellon Collection) 1630-1850 (Yale Center for British Art, 1977-04-19 - 1977-07-17) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

A loan exhibition of English drawings and watercolours from the collection of Mr and Mrs Paul Mellon of Upperville, Virginia, P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., London, 1964, cat. no. 37, N5247.M385 L62 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Timothy J. Barringer, Picturesque and sublime : Thomas Cole's trans-Atlantic inheritance, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2018, p. 73, fig. 58, NJ18 .C67 B37 2018 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Timothy J. Barringer, The Englishness of Thomas Cole, University of New Hampshire Press, Durham, NH, 2011, pp.3-4, 5, fig. 1.1 & Pl. I, V2383 (YCBA) [YCBA]

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's Legacy: a Passion for British Art: Masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, pp. 283-84, no. 88, pl. 88, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

British Art at Yale, Apollo, v.105, April 1977, pp. 273, 275-6, fig. 14, N1 .A54 + OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

David Blayney Brown, Turner's Modern World, Tate Publishing, London, p. 142, no. 105, NJ18.T85 A12 2020a Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Stephen Daniels, Fields of vision, landscape, imagery and national identity in England and the United States , Polity Press, Cambridge, 1994, pp. 116-24, fig. 2, N8213 D35 1994 (YCBA) [YCBA]

English Drawings and Watercolours from the Mellon Collection, The Times (London), issue no. 56195, December 15, 1964, p. 6, Available online: The Times Digital Archive Also available on Microfilm: Film An T482 (SML) [ORBIS]

Susan Grace Galassi, Turner's Modern and Ancient Ports : Passages Through Time, New York : The Frick Collection , New Haven : Yale University Press, 2017, p. 15, cat. 12, NJ18 T85 +A12 2017 [ORBIS]

Louis Hawes, Presences of Nature : British Landscape, 1780-1830, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1982, pp. 110, 199-200, no. VI.26, pl. 87, ND1354.4 H38 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Lady Lever Art Gallery, British watercolours and drawings, Lord Leverhulme's collection in the Lady Lever Art Gallery , Liverpool University Press, Liverpool, 2010, p. 196, fn 1137, N1455 A85 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Frederic Ogee, Turner, les paysages absolus , Hazan, Paris, 2010, p. 199, NJ18 T85 O34 2010 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Paul Mellon's Legacy : a passion for British art [large print labels], , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, v. 2, no. 88, N5220 M552 P381 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

J. S. Piggott, Turner among the Landscape Engravers I:: Chiaroscuro, Copper, Stone and Wood, Turner Society News, no. 121, Spring 2014, pp. 3-14, NJ18 T85 T86 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Graham Reynolds, English Landscape 1630-1850, Apollo, vol.105, April 1977, pp. 273, 275-6, fig. 14, N1 A54 105:2 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Eric Shanes, The Dover Mail - by Turner or by ' Girton ' ?, Turner Society News, no. 121, Spring, 2014, pp. 5-6,9 [fn 9], NJ18 T85 T86 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Ian Warrell, J.M.W. Turner, Tate Publishing, London, 2007, pp. 17, 20, fig. 8, NJ18 T85 A12 2007 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Andrew Wilton, The life and work of J.M.W. Turner, Academy Editions, London, 1979, p. 362, No. 544, NJ18 T85 +W577 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Yale University Art Gallery, English drawings and watercolors, from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, April 15 - June 20, 1965 , New Haven, 1965, cat. no. 37, NC228 Y34 (YCBA) [YCBA]

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