Oxford History: The High

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The High by Turner


The High by William Turner

This painting by J. M. W. Turner shows the High Street with University Collegeon the left, the Warden’s house of All Souls College on the right, and Carfax in the distance.

On the left (beyond the boys picking up spilt oranges) are workmen pulling down Deep Hall, where the scientist Robert Boyle lived between 1655 and 1668: a plaque on the western side of University College marks the site. This painting dates from 1809/10.

The original painting was commissioned by James Wyatt, with a view to having it engraved so that he could sell it as a print at his shop at 115 High Street. Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 31 March 1810 reported:

James Wyatt, Carver, Gilder, and Picture-Frame Maker, High-Street, Oxford, respectfully informs the Noblemen and Gentlemen of the University, and the Public, that the Picture of the HIGH-STREET, from the Pencil of that Eminent Artist, Joseph Mallord William Turner Esq., R.A. Professor of Perspective to the Royal Academy, is arrived; and that he purposes to exhibit it in his shop, for the inspection of the Subscribers and those Gentlemen who will do him the honour to call at his house, till the 10th of April, after which time it will be necessary to put it into the hands of the Engravers, Messrs. Middiman and Pye, who have engaged to execute it, in the Line Manner, and in their best style. Price to Subscribers £1 11s. 6d. Proof Impressions (of which only fifty will be taken off) £3 3s.

The original painting is now part of the Loyd Collection and is on long-term loan to the Ashmolean Museum. Turner has straightened and widened the High slightly to allow a longer view: the curve outside All Souls College is actually sharper, as the more realistic picture of the High in 1838 by Joseph Murray Ince shows.

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©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 16 September, 2012

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