England: Richmond Hill on the Prince Regent’s Birthday
For another of Turner’s landscapes, England: Richmond Hill on the Prince Regent’s Birthday, the location is less of a mystery than the choice of objects shown in the foreground. In 1819, when it was first exhibited, this was the largest of Turner’s paintings. The canvas measured a whopping 1.8 metres high by 3.5 metres across, and when it travelled to Australia’s National Gallery for exhibition, it took 13 people to unpack it.
The top half of the painting shows one of Turner’s familiar expanses of sky, this time clear blue and punctuated by tree tops; but it’s the lower half where things really get interesting.
This shows a group of party-goers gathered on Richmond Hill, near London, to celebrate the prince’s birthday – a birthday shared by Turner himself. Quintessentially English, and barely different from the vista greeting visitors to Richmond Park today, the view looks in the direction of Turner’s home in Twickenham and even includes a game of cricket in the meadows below. At first sight, the gathering of people on the hill looks like a typical birthday party, but look closer and some surprising objects provide rich sources for speculation.