Prior to 1906 William Turner de Lond was often confused with his contemporary J.M.W. Turner. There was an on-going debate regarding the attribution of the artist's work which raged in the Connoisseur
and it was not until the appearance of one of de Lond's patrons that the identity of the two artists became distinct.
Identified by his affix, de Lond is best known for large scale urban crowd scenes, which aligned him with other artists of this genre such as William Powell Frith and John Ritchie. The National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, holds one of at least four of de Lond's depictions of George IV's visit to the city in 1821, and a number of other Irish subjects by the artist were exhibited in Limerick in the same year. The artist then travelled to Edinburgh, following the King on his tour of parts of the country recently made accessible by modern transport improvements, and there he recorded a military review held on Portobello Sands on 23 August 1822 (National Gallery of Scotland). As J.M.W. Turner would paint the Houses of Parliament in flames, so too did De Lond depict the fires of Edinburgh ten years earlier in November 1824.
The present work is an astounding example of de Lond's ability to act as a realist spectator and documenter of contemporary events, pre-empting Baudelaire's description of the modern artist. The viewer is shown a teeming crowd, amongst which we see the mingling of different social strata at a public fair of which Dickens would be proud. The Victorian period saw the exponential explosion of the population, and panoramic views of urban and festive locales which brought large populations into close quarters tapped into viewers' desire to collate the true variety of characters on show. In the present work, Victorian audiences would have revelled in identifying the various 'types', the pickpockets, gamblers, tattered low lives and drunkards that rub shoulders with immaculately turned out officers and elegant young women.
It has been suggested that the present picture may depict a view on the left bank of the river Dee near Aberdeen in the area now occupied by Duthie Park. The little fishing bothy standing on the water's edge is still there, exactly as seen in this picture.
We are grateful to Jennifer Melville of Aberdeen City Art Gallery for her kind suggestions regarding the location of this scene.