Lot 21
  • 21


3,000,000 - 5,000,000 GBP
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  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
  • Walton Bridges
  • signed lower right: J M W Turner R A
  • oil on canvas
  • 92.7 x 123.8 cm.; 36  1/2 x 48 3/4  in.


Sold by the artist to Sir John Leicester, 1st Baron de Tabley (1762–1827), for £280 in January 1807; Thomas Wright (1773–1845), Upton Hall, Nottinghamshire;

His sale, London, Christie’s, 7 June 1845, lot 58, for 670 guineas to Pennell;

Joseph Gillott (1799–1872), Westbourne Road, Edgbaston, by 1847;

His sale, London, Christie’s, 27 April 1872, lot 307, for £5,250 to Agnew on behalf of H.W.F. Bolckow;

Henry William Ferdinand Bolckow (1806–1878), M.P.;

Sold by his executors, London, Christie’s, 2 May 1891, lot 105, to Agnew on behalf of Lord Wantage;

Brigadier General Robert Loyd-Lindsay, 1st Baron Wantage, VC, KCB, VD (1832–1901), Lockinge, Oxfordshire;

Thence by descent to the present owner.


Possibly London, Turner’s Gallery, 1806; Birmingham, Birmingham Society of Artists, 1847, no. 129;

Manchester, Art Treasures, 1857, no. 266;

London, Royal Academy, Old Masters, 1892, no. 140;

London, Guildhall, Pictures and Drawings by J.M.W. Turner, R.A., 1899, no. 19;

Paris, Universal Exhibition, 1900, British Royal Pavilion, no. 46;

London, Tate Gallery, Turner’s Early Oil Paintings, 1931, no. 50;

Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, Pictures from Lockinge House, Wantage, 1934, no. 7;

Birmingham, City Museum and Art Gallery, Paintings and Tapestries from Lockinge House, Wantage, 1945–52, no. 33;

London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, J.M.W. Turner, R.A., 1953, no. 73;

London, Thomas Agnew & Son Ltd, Summer Exhibition of Pictures by Old Masters, Including a Group on Loan from The Lockinge Collection, 1956, no. 10;

London, Royal Academy, Bicentenary Exhibition, 1968–69, no. 150;

London, Royal Academy, Turner, 1974–75, no. 131;

Tokyo, Museum of Fine Arts, British Landscape Painting, 1992, no. 53;

Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, on long term loan 1997–2017.


W. Thornbury, The Life of J.M.W Turner, R.A., London, 1862, I, p. 305; W. Thornbury, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., 2nd ed., in one volume, London 1877, pp. 438–39;

Sir W Armstrong, Turner, London, 1902, pp. 59, 236, reproduced pl. 32;

A. G. Temple, Catalogue of the Pictures Forming the Collection of Lord and Lady Wantage, 1902, pp. 160–61, no. 241, reproduced;

A. G. Temple, A catalogue of pictures forming the collection of Lord and Lady Wantage, London 1905, pp. 171–72, no. 241, reproduced;

C. J. Holmes, 'The Paintings by Turner', in Burlington Magazine, vol. XIV, 1908, p. 17;

Guide to the Pictures at Lockinge House, 1928 (A. T. Loyd’s collection), p. 10;

A. J. Finberg, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., 2nd ed., revised by H. F. Finberg, Oxford 1961, pp. 125, 132, 302, 409, 467, nn. 100, 510, 581;

D. Hall, 'The Tabley House Papers', in Walpole Society, 1960–62, vol. XXXVIII, 1962, p. 93;

L. Parris, The Loyd Collection of Paintings and Drawings, London 1967, pp. 39–40, no. 58, reproduced;

G. Reynolds, Turner, London 1969, p. 74;

M. Butlin and E. Joll, The Painitngs of J. M. W. Turner, 2 vols, New Haven and London 1977, text vol., p. 40, no. 60, plates vol., reproduced pl. 52;

M. Butlin and E. Joll, The Paintings of J. M. W. Turner, Revised Edition, 2 vols, New Haven and London 1984, text vol., pp. 47–48, no. 60, plates vol., reproduced pl. 70;

S. Wittingham, 'A Most Liberal Patron: Sir John Fleming Leicester, Bart., 1st Baron de Tabley, 1762–1827', in Turner Studies, vol. 6, no. 2, Winter 1986, p. 28;

J. Chapel, 'The Turner Collector: Joseph Gillott, 1799–1872', in Turner Studies, vol. 6, no. 2, Winter 1986, p. 48, reproduced;

A. Wilton, Turner in his time, London 1987, pp. 72 and 86;

A Wilton, Painting and Poetry. Turner's Verse Book and his work of 1804–1812, Tate exhibition catalogue, London 1990, p. 45, reproduced;

F. Russell, The Loyd Collection of Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, p.p. 1991, no. 58;

C. Powell, 'A neglected Turner patron: Thomas Wright of Upton (1773-1845)', in Turner Society News, vol. 121, Spring 2014, p. 22.


The following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: Joseph Mallord William Turner, R.A. Walton Bridges. Signed J M W Turner R A at lower right. This painting seems to have been relined in the middle of the last century, and has a strong rather older stretcher. There may well have been an earlier lining, to judge by some flattening of the rich impasto in places. Various momentous exhibitions might have inspired such decisions, for instance the inclusion of the painting in the great Manchester Exhibition of 1857. Equally a century later the major Turner Exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1974-5 could perhaps have lead to some of the more recent cleaning visible today. Very old varnish still remains in places, particularly in the lower right foreground near and just below the signature, as well as in the crevices of the impasto, with much of the lower landscape having a haze of rather older varnish, particularly around the cows and the bridge at centre left, where there may be some past retouching, although much fine detail remains perfectly intact The more open water and ships in the mild middle distant landscape on the right, with less impasted brushwork, has retained a calmer even veil of varnish, although traces of early cleaning can nevertheless be seen in the lost rigging of the distant ships. The quite thinly painted blue of the sky above on the right has been finely preserved. While the intense impasto of the rich golden light above the bridge has some dramatic craquelure. In the upper sky various impasted areas have had a similarly more complex background and treatment in the past, with retouchings visible under ultra violet light along the upper stretcher bar line particularly and scattered in such areas of the sky. A diagonal line slanting in the upper right sky could possibly reflect slanting cross bars of an original stretcher. The powerful effect of Turner's dramatic brushwork has been very wisely preserved over time. This report was not done under laboratory conditions.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

This magnificent painting is one of an important series of views of the River Thames painted by Turner between circa 1805 and 1808, shortly after he had moved out of London to a house on the banks of the river near Iselworth. The scene depicts Walton Bridges, the double span bridge that crossed the Thames between Sunbury Lock and Shepperton Lock, connecting Walton-on-Thames on the south bank with Shepperton, Halliford and Sunbury on the north. The subject was a favourite among artists in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The old wooden bridge had been painted by Canaletto a number of times in 1754–55, the most famous version of which now hangs at Dulwich Picture Gallery (fig. 8); and more recently it had appeared in Boydell’s History of the Thames, a series of hand coloured aquatints published between 1774 and 1776 by Turner’s friend, fellow artist and celebrated diarist Joseph Farington (1747–1821).   This is the first of three full-scale pictures of the subject by Turner, and the artist produced another two oil sketches of the scene (see fig. 1), as well as numerous drawings in his sketchbooks around 1806–07. Drawings that specifically relate to this picture appear in the Hesperides (2) sketchbook (Turner Bequest, XCIV, Tate Gallery, London, fig. 2), on pages 4, 6 and possibly 7, 7 verso and 8, and in the Thames from Reading to Walton sketchbook (Turner Bequest, XCV, Tate Gallery, London), pages 22–23. Of the other two full scale oil paintings of the subject, both of which differ considerably in composition to the present work, one was exhibited in Turner’s gallery in 1807, from where it was bought by the Earl of Essex, and is now in the collection of National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (fig. 4); and the other is a much later work of circa 1840–50, when Turner, by then an old man, returned to many of the great subjects of his youth (Private collection, formerly in the collection of J.P. Morgan, New York). 

The view is taken from the south west, looking downstream, with the river curving round to the left and a wooded ridge of ground running along the right hand side which obscures the view of the ancient market town of Walton itself. In the foreground a herd of cattle have come down to graze and drink at the water’s edge, whilst on the opposite side of the river a group of Thames barges have pulled into the bank on their way downstream towards London. These vessels appear to be Luff-Barges. Smaller and more streamlined than the standard Thames Lighter, with a sprit rig and no mizzen, they principally worked the upper reaches of the Thames and were maneuvered by a pair of bargemen using long sweeps (oars), clearly seen here in action. The two barges fore and the one aft of the line have their masts fixed in place, though they are in the process of furling sail, whilst the one seen broadside in the middle of the line has lowered its mast in preparation to pass under the arches of the bridge. On the right a young boy in a red cap rests and waters the horses that will be hitched to the barges to pull them through the bridge. It is a tranquil, bucolic scene – a moment of repose and calm at the end of a busy day on the river. A pastoral idyll in England's green and pleasant land.  

The Thames and its picturesque banks were a source of great inspiration to Turner and other major Thames views from this period include Windsor Castle from the Thames, c. 1805 (fig. 5) and The Thames near Windsor, 1807 (both Egremont Collection, Petworth House), Union of the Thames and Isis, 1808 (Tate Gallery, London), The Thames at Eton, 1808 (Egremont Collection, Petworth House), Pope’s Villa at Twickenham, 1808 (Private collection, fig. 6), and View of Richmond Hill and Bridge, 1808 (Tate Gallery, London).

The early 1800s were a period of fractious relations between Turner and the Academy, a situation which led to him establishing his own gallery at his house at 64 Harley Street so that he might exhibit his pictures to potential clients on this own terms (fig. 7). At the same time, in 1804 or early 1805, having only recently established himself as a full member of the Royal Academy and the leading landscape painter of the day, Turner made the somewhat extraordinary decision to move out of the metropolis to Isleworth, a small town about ten miles west of London where the River Crane flows into the Thames. Seeking solace from the political infighting at the Academy (to which he had recently been elected a full member of the council) and attempting to distance himself from the professional rivalries of his contemporaries, he took the lease on Sion Ferry House, right on the banks of the river. Turner had known these picturesque reaches of the Thames as a boy growing up nearby at Brentford and the river at Isleworth was to him what the Stour at Dedham was to Constable. His knowledge of the area was of a very different order to that which most contemporary landscape painters possessed of their subjects, and applies equally to the local industry and figural activity within the pictures he produced during this period as it does to topographical familiarity. As with Constable’s work on the Stour, Turner’s Thames views are informed by a level of intimacy and infused with a sense of nostalgia that is found in no other period of his work. Further, as Andrew Wilton stated, ‘the spot was almost the perfect embodiment of his aesthetic requirements: a group of village buildings clustered by the river, with its curving reaches, noble parkland bordering the water, and the Duke of Northumberland’s shooting lodge in the form of a round and pillared classical temple, ‘The Alcove’, providing a Claudian motif ready to hand among the English trees’.1 The magical intermingling of the rustic and the classical that he found there was a perfect paradigm of his ambitions for landscape painting, something that is strongly reflected in both his sketches and paintings of the period.

During his time at Sion Ferry House Turner spent a productive series of summers sketching along the course of the Thames. From his base at Isleworth he would set out in a small boat which he navigated up and down the river, using it to transport his materials with ease, as well as drawing and painting directly from it – a sort of floating easel. In addition to working in his customary sketchbooks it was here that Turner first experimented with painting oil sketches en plein air, as the Impressionist were to do over half a century later. Taking sizable canvases and even wood panels with him in his boat, he painted directly from nature, working in oil with the freedom from restraint of an outdoor sketcher and recording both his experiences of the landscape and the light and atmospheric conditions of the river in a vast array of sketches and colour studies that formed the basis for a series of pictures exhibited in his gallery and at the Academy over the next few years. One such oil sketch, Willows beside a Stream (Tate Gallery, London), is on a canvas of similar dimensions to those he regularly used for these pictures, which suggests that some of his exhibited works from this period, such as the present work, were begun in the open air, with the artist laying in the composition directly in front of the subject before completing it in his studio. A rapidly applied flurry of brushwork in the lower left corner of Willows beside a Stream which loosely delineates a group of dogs attacking a stag suggests that the canvas was originally intended to be worked up into a mythological scene of Diana and Actaeon, rather than simply functioning as a didactic sketch, further supporting the idea that many of his Thames paintings from this period may have been started upon the river itself, with the artist responding sensually to the atmosphere around him from the relative comfort of his boat. For an artist who spent much of his life travelling extensively throughout Britain and across Europe, the series of views of the Thames that Turner produced between 1805 and 1808 represent a rare moment of repose and picturesque tranquillity within his work. It is in pictures such as Walton Bridges, as in no others, that Turner captures his love of the bucolic simplicity of his native land and is at his most ‘English’.  

Turner was no slavish copyist of nature, however, but an intelligent witness who drew on his observations to create authentic naturalistic effects. ‘Selecting that which is beautiful in nature and admirable in art’,2 as he himself put it, the crucial essence of his vision was always his own creative imagination. Blending the pure, aerial light and poetic sensibility he had learned from Claude Lorraine with recognisable scenes of his native British countryside he elevated his work ‘from the realms of simple topography to the highest pinnacle of poetic and artistic achievement’,3 earning Turner his reputation as the pre-eminent modern master. What Claude Monet would refer to as Turner painting ‘with his eyes open’.

The bridge depicted by Turner was the second bridge to cross the Thames at Walton. Designed by John Payne with the advice of John Smeaton, it was built in 1788 to replace the first Walton Bridge which had been made famous by Canaletto in the mid-1750s (fig. 8). By 1783 the wooden structure of the old bridge had decayed to such an extent that it was no longer structurally sound and it was replaced by the elegant stone arches seen in the present painting following an Act of Parliament. The bridge was described by James Thorne in Rambles by Rivers: The Thames, published in 1849, as a ‘long straggling combination of arches called Walton Bridge. It is in fact a sort of double bridge, a second set of arches being carried over a low tract of ground, south of the principal bridge, which crosses the river. According to popular tradition this marshy tract was the original bed of the Thames’. The bridge was much admired for its picturesque qualities and was particularly mentioned by a number of commentators, including Samuel Ireland in his Picturesque Views of the Thames of 1792, for its beautiful appearance when seen from the terrace at Oatlands, the seat of the Duke of York.

Rivers, either specific arteries or more generic streams, figure repeatedly in Turner's work throughout his career as a recurrent motif in both his painting and his poetry. Turner was an avid poet, as well as a painter, and though he never officially published a volume of his writing his sketchbooks are littered with extracts of verse, often composed spontaneously in reaction to something in nature that had particularly inspired him. Many of his paintings were also exhibited at the Academy accompanied by several stanzas of poetry in the catalogue that Turner had composed himself, relating specifically to the composition in question; in addition to those he showed accompanied by extracts from the work of his great poetic hero, Lord Byron. It is no coincidence that there is a strong lyrical quality to much of Turner's work, particularly his river scenes, and none more so than his own native Thames. Though he was not as gifted with words as he was with the brush Turner approached all his work with the soul of a poet, and often thought and discussed his paintings in lyrical terms. 

The Rivers of England, the 'Great Rivers of Europe', the 'Rivers of France', all these were projects that inspired Turner to particularly creative flights. Moreover, as Andrew Wilton has discussed, it is clear from his poetry that 'the idea of the river embodied for Turner a type of human existence: it was a paradigm and parable, a living, light reflecting truth that was central to his perception of landscape’.5 The Thames of his boyhood was fundamental in its significance to Turner's inspiration throughout his life, that 'pastoral stream that wound through wooded meadows from Oxford to Windsor and on to the Middlesex and Surrey towns and villages of Twickenham, Richmond, Kew and Isleworth.'4

Note on Provenance

Having been exhibited in Turner’s own, recently established Harley Street gallery in 1806 the painting was bought directly from the artist by Sir John Fleming Leicester, later 1st Baron de Tabley (1762–1827), and Turner acknowledged payment of £280 for the picture in a letter to Sir John on 8 January 1807.6 Described as ‘the greatest patron of the national school of paintings that our island has ever possessed’,7 Leicester was the eldest surviving son of Sir Peter Leicester, 4th Bt (1732–1770) and his wife Catherine (d. 1786), daughter and co-heir of Sir William Fleming, Bt of Rydal, Westmorland. Educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, as a boy Leicester had been taught drawing by Paul Sandby before embarking on an extensive Grand Tour of the Continent. Travelling through Belgium, Switzerland, France and Italy, in Rome he met and befriended Sir Richard Colt Hoare, the famous artist, antiquarian and archaeologist. Italy seems to have held few attractions for him, however, and the evidence of his letters and journals suggests that he was much more interested in Alpine scenery and picturesque views than the grandeur of Classical antiquity.

Back in England, with the encouragement of William Paulet Carey (1759–1839), an Irish artist turned propagandist for contemporary British art and editor of the Literary Gazette, Leicester began to assemble a collection of pictures by modern British artists that was entirely unique in its day and unparalleled in the annals of British art collecting. Commissioning work directly from the artists themselves, as well as purchasing pictures from the Academy, he bought heavily from the likes of Sir Joshua Reynolds, George Romney, James Northcote, Benjamin West, Henry Fuseli, Augustus Wall Calcott, James Ward, William Hilton, Sir Thomas Lawrence, George Henry Harlow, Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, George Jones, John Martin, and of course Turner; whose Sun Rising through Vapour Leicester bought before it was re-acquired by the artist for the phenomenal price of 490 guineas and bequeathed to the newly formed National Gallery under the terms of Turner’s will, there to hang in perpetuity alongside one of the great masterpieces of Claude Lorraine.

Establishing extensive galleries at both his London residence, 24 Hill Street, and his country seat, Tabley Hall in Cheshire, Leicester’s patronage of British art was highly public spirited, and in 1818 he opened his London gallery to the public (fig. 10). In 1823, amidst the growing public debate surrounding the creation of a national collection Leicester wrote to the Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, offering to sell his entire collection to the nation to form the nucleus of a National Gallery of British Art. The offer was refused, however in 1826 he was created Baron de Tabley, one of George IV’s last acts, for his services to the arts – though he enjoyed this honour for barely eleven months before he died in June 1827. Due to the perilous state of his finances his executors sold the London house and its collection almost immediately, with only a few paintings being withdrawn and sent up to Tabley. Fifty-five lots were sold at auction on 7 July 1827 for £7,466, a gigantic sum for the time.

This picture was not amongst the lots sold at Leicester’s posthumous sale, nor is it listed in either the 1819 or 1821 catalogues of his collection and must therefore have left the collection before either of these inventories were taken. In 1845 it appeared at auction at Christie’s, on 7 June, lot 58, when the consignor’s name was given as Thomas Wright of Upton Hall (1773–1845), a successful Nottinghamshire banker.8 Wright was a noted patron of the arts and friend of Turner's, as well as the first biographer of Richard Wilson, a number of whose works he owned. It is said that Turner himself left a bid of £250 at the sale, though in the end the picture sold to ‘Pennell’ for £703, 10s on behalf of Joseph Gillott (1799–1872) a famous pen maker and patron of the arts.

Born in humble circumstances in Sheffield, in 1821 Gillott moved to Birmingham where he pioneered the manufacture of steel pens and amassed a significant fortune – becoming pen maker to Queen Victoria in 1840. A secretive man in both business and art collecting, he loved the theatre, kept an excellent wine cellar, collected musical instruments as well as pictures and was on extremely good terms with all the dealers who acted on his behalf – relying on them to bid for him and inform him of what was coming up in the sales. At first Gillott bought both Old Masters and Contemporary pictures, through dealers and from the artists themselves, often exchanging violins, wine, horses, jewels and pens, as well as cash, for large collections of paintings, though as time went by his focus shifted more to the work of contemporary British painters. He amassed a significant collection which filled three purpose built galleries at his house on Westbourne Road, Edgbaston – which according to one contemporary description had an ‘embarrassing abundance and quality’ of pictures that crowded the walls of the galleries, the living areas and the bedrooms.9 After 1860 he built another gallery at The Grove, in Stanmore, which became his London residence.

There are no letters to or from Turner among the extensive Gillott papers, which contain a wealth of information concerning the latter’s art collecting activities. A story goes that the two did meet, in 1844, when Gillott visited the artist at his house on Queen Ann Street and inveigled Turner into selling him about £5,000 worth of pictures for what Gillott called ‘Birmingham pictures’ – i.e. a bundle of bank notes – and then promptly sold the majority of them on for the aggregate sum he had paid whilst keeping the best two as profit. Such behaviour would not have endeared him to the notoriously difficult and usually shrewd Turner and, if true, may explain why no further business appears to have been conducted between them directly.

News that a major new collector was in the market spread fast, however, and Gillott was soon buying Turners at a prodigious rate, some of which remained in the collection permanently and others which were traded on. A sense of the quality of the collection can be glimpsed through just a small number of the pictures that were in it – including Sheerness and the Isle of Sheppey, with the Junction of the Thames and the Medway (National Gallery of Art, Washington), which Gillot bought from the sale of John Newington Hughes; Van Tromp going about to please his master, ships at sea, getting a good wetting (The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles), possibly one of the pictures Gillot had bought from Turner’s studio in 1844; and Approach to Venice (National Gallery of Art, Washington), which was engraved whilst in Gillot’s collection.

Of all the dealers Gillot bought through George Pennell (d. 1866), of 18 Berners Street, in Fitzrovia, was the one whose opinion he trusted most and with whom he had the closest relationship – Pennell affectionately addressing him as ‘Old Guv’ or ‘Friend G’ in his letters. In 1843 Gillott bought Turner’s The Temple of Jupiter Panellenius (Northumberland Collection, Alnwick Castle) through Pennell for £700, later selling it to the dealer Ruben Brooks in 1850 for £1,900, along with Linnell’s Return of Ulysses (Forbes Collection, New York), which he had commissioned in 1848. Two years later, in 1845, he bought both Mercury and Argus (National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa) and Snowstorm, Avalanche and Inundation (Art Institute of Chicago) through Pennell and it was also from Pennell that he bought Walton Bridges, one of the highlights of his permanent collection.

In 1872, following Gillott’s death, his entire collection was put up for sale at Christie’s. The auction took six days and numbered 525 lots, including twenty five works by Turner. The London Illustrated News described the collection as ‘one of the very largest and most valuable in the kingdom’, whilst the Daily News reported that the auction house was ‘completely besieged, and hundreds of persons could not even get within sight of the auctioneer; while, at the close of the sale, the street was blocked with carriages and the pavement crowded with gentlemen and ladies eager to hear what the Turner’s had sold for’.10 In total the collection raised £164,501 5s, but the highest price of the sale was achieved for lot 307, Turner's Walton Bridges, which sold for a princely £5,250.

The painting was bought by the dealers Thomas Agnew & Son, who sold it to Henry Bolckow. Born in Sülten, in Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Bolckow came to England in 1827 to work in the corn trade in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, becoming a naturalised British subject in 1841. Persuaded by the ironmaster of the Watergate works in Newcastle, John Vaughan, to invest in the burgeoning iron trade he moved to Middlesbrough where he ran a series of successful iron smelting works before establishing the firm of Bolckow & Vaughan in 1864, which expanded their interests into coal mines, limestone quarries, brickworks, gasworks and machine works. In 1853 Bolckow was appointed the first Mayor of Middlesbrough and in 1868 was elected as the town’s first Member of Parliament. An avid collector, his passion was for the work of modern British and French painters, particularly the former. He owned a large collection of paintings by Faed, Webster, Cox, Linnell, Wilkie, Eastlake, Landseer (including The Return from Deerstalking, the celebrated picture painted for Landseer’s great friend William Wells of Redleaf), Roberts and Muller, as well as numerous watercolours, including six by Turner. Along with Walton Bridges the other standout masterpiece of his collection, however, was Hogarth’s O The Roast Beef of Old England or The Gate of Calais (Tate Gallery, London), one of the most iconic works of eighteenth-century British art. 

Following his widow’s death the painting once more came up for sale at Christie’s, on 2 May 1891, lot 150, when it was again acquired by Agnew’s, this time on behalf of the great collector Lord Wantage. Brigadier General Robert James Loyd-Lindsay, 1st Baron Wantage, VC, KCB, VD (1832–1901) was the second son of Sir James Lindsay, 1st Bt and his wife Anne, daughter of Sir Coutts Trotter. A heavily decorated soldier, politician, philanthropist and art collector, in 1858 he married the Hon. Harriet Jones–Loyd, the daughter and only surviving heiress of Samuel Jones-Loyd, 1st Baron Overstone (1796–1883), one of the richest men in the country and a famous patron of the arts. Upon his father-in-law’s death without surviving male issue he took the additional name of Loyd and inherited the Lockinge Estate near Wantage, in Oxfordshire, together with its substantial art collection. A Trustee of the National Gallery, Lord Overstone’s taste had been for the Old Masters, and the collection that he left behind included Rembrandt’s Portrait of Margaretha Trip and Claude’s The Enchanted Castle (both National Gallery, London), as well as works by Domenichino, Guido Reni, Murillo, Canaletto and many others. The collection was particularly noted for its many masterpieces from the Dutch school, including major works by Steen, Ruysdael and Teniers. His son-in-law’s taste, however, was more for the modern British school, and Lord and Lady Wantage added significantly to the magnificent collection they inherited. In 1884 they bought Burne-Jones’s Temperantia and Caritas from the Ellis sale and Gainsborough’s Portrait of Lady Eardley with her daughter from Broughton Castle. At the Blenheim sale in 1886 they bought Van Dyck’s Portrait of Queen Henrietta Maria. However it was in 1890–91 that they made their two most significant purchases: Turner’s Sheerness as seen from the Nore (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston) and Walton Bridges (the present lot), both of which they bought through Agnew’s. These two masterpieces of Turner’s early career were a fitting addition to the collection, for it had been Lord Overstone who, as a trustee of the National Gallery and a member of the Lords Committee, had overseen the acceptance of the artist’s bequest to the nation of the contents of his gallery in 1856. Though he did add a smattering of Old Masters to the collection, in 1896 Wantage’s more contemporary taste was confirmed when he acquired Corot’s The Four Times of Day (National Gallery, London) from Lord Leighton’s posthumous sale, as well as four brilliant landscape sketches by the artist himself.

According to his wife, Lady Wantage, as a child in Italy her husband had contracted ‘a rooted distaste for picture-galleries and churches which took many years to overcome’ but that his ‘appreciation of beauty in nature inclined him specially, though by no means exclusively, to love of landscape in art’. No picture from his collection better exemplifies this than Turner’s great view of his beloved Thames, with its richly lyrical depiction of soft evening light playing on the waters of this bucolic stretch of the river. The painting hung amidst the eclectic mix of masterpieces in the picture gallery at Lockinge, constructed specifically ‘to receive the choicest art treasures of the collection’.11 It has remained in the family ever since and in 1997 was lent to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford where it has for many years been one of the star attractions of the museum’s collection of nineteenth-century paintings. It is now one of a very small handful of oil paintings by Turner left in private hands.


1 Wilton 1987, p. 69.

2 Quoted in Turner’s discourses to the Royal Academy as Professor of Perspective.

3 N. Moorby, ‘The Making of a Modern Master: Painting with Open Eyes’, in I. Warrell (ed.), J.M.W. Turner, London 2007, p. 57.

4 Both Finberg and Butlin & Joll state that, though the only picture certainly recorded by Farington as being shown in Turner’s gallery in 1806 is the Battle of Trafalgar the likelihood that this picture was included in the exhibition is very strong (See Butlin & Joll, p. 47).

5 Wilton in London 1990, p. 44.

6 D. Hall, ‘The Tabley House Papers’, in The Walpole Society, vol. XXXVIII, 1962, p. 93.

7 See W. Whittinham, ‘A Most Liberal Patron: Sir John Fleming Leicester, 1st Baron de Tabley, 1762–1827’, in Turner Studies, vol. 6, no. 2, 1986, p. 31.

8 Built in 1828 to a design by the architect W. J. Dunthome, Upton Hall, near Sherwood, is now the headquarters of the British Horological Institute. For further details about Thomas Wright and his collection see Powell, in Turner Society News, vol. 121, pp. 21-24.

9 Quoted in Chapel 1985, p. 43.

10 Both quoted in Chapel 1985, p. 48.

11 Quoted in F. Russell, The Loyd Collection of Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, p.p. 1991.