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The subject is unidentified, but appears to relate to various views of buildings between trees on the banks of the Thames, resulting from Turner’s stay at Isleworth in 1805 (see also the Liber Studiorum drawing Isleworth, Tate D08163; Vaughan Bequest CXVIII I). For example, a watercolour study of Kew Bridge and Palace in the Hesperides (1) sketchbook (Tate D05833; Turner Bequest XCIII 38 a) and the related Kew Palace from the Thames, with Kew Bridge Beyond (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester)1 both feature a tall, gabled building on the left (west, Brentford) bank of the Thames, though the silhouetted building in the present study appears to have additional chimneys or finials. In the absence of specific evidence, the span of the Liber Studiorum’s active publication, 1807–19, is suggested here as a date range for the present work (as it is for various other unpublished designs). Studies made on adjacent pages probably also show or are derived from Thames scenery: see Tate D08084, D08086–D08088; Turner Bequest CXV 1, 3–5).2
The watercolour washes do not extend to the top and left-hand edges. There are numerous brown spots on the left and one adventitious spot of blue pigment. The few pencil strokes are very loose and undescriptive. Few brushstrokes are evident in the background washes, applied when the paper was wet; the technique resembles that of Turner’s ‘Colour Beginnings’ (mostly held at Tate; principally Turner Bequest CCLXIII), but using only one colour, an Indian red giving an overall warm brown tone. Other Liber drawings would have looked like this in their first stages.1
This sheet was recorded by Finberg in 1909 as apparently still being in the sketchbook, but if so it was subsequently removed before the book was badly damaged by immersion in the basement of the Tate Gallery during the Thames flood of January 1928. His number, ‘2’, corresponds with the red ink folio numbers inscribed in the book by Ruskin. It seems that the whole sheet was taken from the book, leaving no stub, and then trimmed at the left-hand edge to remove the stitching holes.
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files.