Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Reclining Nude with her Arms behind her Head

c.1834–6

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

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Watercolour and graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 77 x 101 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D28869
Turner Bequest CCXCI b 54

Catalogue entry

As Ann Chumbley and Ian Warrell have noted, this nude study ‘leaves little doubt that its motive was erotic, the intention being made overt in the directness with which Turner has emphasised the genital area with a bold slash of red.’1 Other parts of the figure are outlined over the initial washes, and there is perhaps a suggestion of a setting of bedclothes and curtains. The studies on folios 53 verso and 55 verso (D28867, D28871) each show the same or a similar pose from a different angle (this being the most explicit), and they were perhaps made from life on the same occasion (perhaps, as Ian Warrell has suggested, in an academic Life Class),2 as opposed to the many apparently imaginative bedroom figure scenes elsewhere in this book.
For a discussion of the improvisatory and often erotic nature of the watercolour studies making up most of this sketchbook, see the Introduction.
Although the nude study on folio 44 verso (D28850; Turner Bequest CCXCI b 44a) is the only page reproduced in the catalogue for contemporary artist Tracey Emin’s 2012 Margate exhibition,3 Tate records indicate that the present page was the one exhibited among comparative works by other artists on that occasion.
There is a slight continuation or offsetting of watercolour from here to the unaccessioned recto of folio 55 (its verso being D28871). The unaccessioned recto of the present leaf is inscribed in red ink ‘54’ and stamped ‘CCXCI(b) – 54’; it is otherwise blank except for a slight watercolour continuation from folio 53 verso (D28867).

Matthew Imms
May 2014

1
Chumbley and Warrell 1989, p.30; see also Bailey 1997, p.283, and Warrell 2003, p.28.
2
See Warrell 2003, p.28.
3
Victoria Pomery, William Feaver and Jeanette Winterson, Tracey Emin: She Lay Down Deep beneath the Sea, exhibition catalogue, Margate 2012, p.12, reproduced in colour.

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