Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Clear Sky above a Landscape

c.1816–20

View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 335 x 423 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D17180
Turner Bequest CXCVI P 1

Catalogue entry

This is one of four similar works on sheets of 1816 Whatman paper with a fold down the centre (see also Tate D40303, D40304 and D25254; Turner Bequest CXCVI P2, P3, CCLXIII 132), amounting to little more than impressions of a sunlit sky above a bright landscape with, as Finberg noted, only ‘faint indications of the difference between sky and land’.1 Ian Warrell has inferred that they were ‘evidently produced in one session’, and suggested that such ‘layering of washes ... directly influenced [Turner’s] methods of working in oils as he entered the 1820s’.2
With the 1816 watermark as a starting point, Warrell has further suggested that the four works ‘quite probably predate his first visit to Italy in 1819, as even before this date his palette had begun to lighten as a result of his experimental studies in watercolour’.3 Compare Tate D15261 and D15262 (Turner Bequest CLXXXI 10, 11), pages in the 1819 Como and Venice sketchbook prepared with bands of pale colour evoking similar sunlit skies and elemental landscapes, presumably as potential stages for subjects developed in the same book through the addition of landscape and architectural features, such as Lake Como or Venice; San Giorgio Maggiore – Early Morning (Tate D15251, D15254; Turner Bequest CLXXXI 1, 4).4 See also Tate D25260 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 138) in the present subsection.
1
Finberg 1909, I, p.600.
2
Warrell 2002, p.190.
3
Ibid.
4
See Shanes 1997, pp.36–7.
Technical notes:
There is a vertical fold down the centre. Finberg gives the single Turner Bequest number CXCVI ‘P’ to an entry for ‘Three colour beginnings’ comprising this sheet, Tate D40303 and D40304 (subsequently numbered separately as CXCVI P1, P2 and P3), along with a single set of Imperial dimensions, ‘13 x 17 ½’ inches, which corresponds to each of them individually;1 their comparatively regular edges and current wide mounts make it difficult to ascertain whether they were or had been physically continuous in some way.
1
Finberg 1909, I, p.600.
Verso:
Blank; not available for inspection at time of writing.

Matthew Imms
March 2016

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