Joseph Mallord William Turner

Abergavenny: The Usk Bridge


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

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 135 x 95 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XL 20 a

Catalogue entry

Turner elaborated two large watercolours from the modest hints supplied by this little drawing. He exhibited one of them at the Royal Academy in 1799 with the title Abergavenny Bridge, Monmouthshire, clearing up after a showery day. This may be the work now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London,1 or an untraced version.2 The finished subject is relatively undramatic topographically and relies heavily on the climatic conditions it depicts for its effect, which apparently reflect Turner’s own experience of the place, since his sketch is notable for its inclusion of rainy clouds and lowering shadows. On 13 March 1799, the artist and diarist Joseph Farington records that the watercolour was ‘made for Lawrence’,3 which Finberg interprets as meaning that the artist (Sir) Thomas Lawrence (1769–1830) had commissioned it.4
One leaf seems to have been removed between this page and folio 23 recto opposite (D01497; Turner Bequest XL 21); if so, this must have taken place before Turner used the book in Wales, since the drawing of Abergavenny Bridge continues on the other page. Another drawing that possibly shows the bridge is the loose sheet Tate D02361 (Turner Bequest L T).

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, pp.327–8 no.252, reproduced.
Ibid., p.328 no.253.
Kenneth Garlick and Angus Macintyre eds., The Diary of Joseph Farington, vol.IV, New Haven and London 1979, p.1172.
Alexander J. Finberg, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A. Second Edition, Revised, with a Supplement, by Hilda F. Finberg, revised ed., Oxford 1961, p.56

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