Burning of the Houses of Parliament William Turner Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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William Turner painted the Burning of the Houses of Parliament in 1834. This painting was created from real life events, as the Houses of Parliament really did catch fire on October 16th, 1834.

The fire caused structural damage to both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, with the carnage being observed by thousands of London's inhabitants.

William Turner was one of those inhabitants and captured the fiery scene on canvas for all eternity.

Turner very much focussed upon natural disasters and epic life changing events, so it was only natural that he should wish to paint the Burning of the Houses of Parliament.

The fire itself was symbolic of great political change within the British political system, as the country was going through the Great Reform Act of 1832.

It therefore became a painting of huge significance, both within the artistic and political world's oh its day.

Turner made rudimentary sketches at the scene of the fire, that then became the watercolour composition that we see today.

His excitement of seeing such a spectacle is clearly portrayed in this sunning painting, which he has exquisitely brought to life through the use of vibrant colours and shadows. Burning of the Houses of Parliament is just full of raw emotion and energy.

Turner has managed to capture the movement and energy of the fire, and we can almost see the fire spreading throughout the buildings collapsing structures.

The ferocity of the fire is reinforced by the fire's embers that can be seen falling and then swirling into the River Thames, only to be carries upwards by the wind and heat of the fire.

The heat of the fire is further illuminated by the painting of the dark building, and the reflection of the bright colours of the flames in the River Thanes below.

What is quite surprising, is that the Burning of the Houses of Parliament is actually an unfinished masterpiece.

This is hard to believe when we observe the ornate architecture that has been created in paint, as well as the attention to detail of the gathering crowd who stand enraptured, while watching the firefighters tackle the roaring blaze.

Burning of the Houses of Parliament in Detai JMW Turner