Skip to main content

Main Building

The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, October 16, 1834

1834-1835
Joseph Mallord William Turner, English, 1775 - 1851

"Shortly before 7 o'clock last night the inhabitants of Westminster, and of the districts on the opposite bank of the river, were thrown into the utmost confusion and alarm by the sudden breaking out of one of the most terrific conflagrations that has been witnessed for many years past....The Houses of the Lords and Commons and the adjacent buildings were on fire."


So wrote the London Times on October 17, 1834. Turner witnessed the event, along with tens of thousands of spectators, and recorded what he saw in quick sketches that became the basis for this painting. Flames consume Saint Stephen's Hall, the House of Commons, and eerily illuminate the towers of Westminster Abbey, which would be spared. On the right the exaggerated scale and plunging perspective of Westminster Bridge intensify the drama of the scene, which Turner observed from the south bank of the Thames River.

...

Object Details
PDF includes looking questions, history, style and introductory color theory information.

We are always open to learning more about our collections and updating the website. Does this record contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? Contact us here.

Please note that this particular artwork might not be on view when you visit. Don’t worry—we have plenty of exhibitions for you to explore.


Main Building