Joseph Mallord William Turner

Blenheim Palace, the Grand Bridge and the Woodstock Gate


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 374 x 585 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 365

Catalogue entry

As Finberg recognised, this is a colour study for the finished watercolour Blenheim House and Park, Oxford of about 1832 (Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery),1 engraved in 1833 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impressions: T04599, T04600, T06101). The view is south-west towards Blenheim Palace on the hill to the left, across the park and lake with the arch of the Grand Bridge at the centre ‘in the form of a sun-like disc’ as ‘the focus of the design’,2 from the Woodstock Gate, indicated roughly on the right.
The composition is based on pencil studies among an extensive sequence in the 1830 Kenilworth sketchbook, particularly Tate D21995 (Turner Bequest CCXXXVIII 12a)3 and the preceding pages (Tate D21993, D21994; Turner Bequest CCXXXVIII 11a, 12).4
Tate D25489 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 366) is another colour study of the lake and house, from an alternative viewpoint. Eric Shanes has described the latter as an ‘idealised’ view, while the composition developed from the present study provided the ‘dramatic components and pictorial architecture’ of a figure scene exploring contemporary ‘class differences and social stress’.5 He notes that the present study shows that the dogs in the finished design ‘were in Turner’s mind from the beginning’.6 Ian Warrell has suggested a thematic and compositional link, albeit reversed, with Claude Lorrain’s (1604/5–1682) 1682 painting Landscape with Ascanius Shooting the Stag of Sylvia (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford), showing a hunting scene with a colonnade in the left foreground.7
See also the introductions to the present subsection of identified subjects and the overall England and Wales ‘colour beginnings’ grouping to which this work has been assigned.
Wilton 1979, p.399 no.846, pl.194.
Butlin, Wilton and Gage 1974, p.122.
See Finberg 1909, II, p.729.
See Butlin, Wilton and Gage 1974, p.122, Wilton 1979, p.399, and Shanes 1979, p.156.
Shanes 1997, p.19; see also p.53.
Shanes 1990, p.221; see also Shanes 1997, p.21.
Warrell 2002, p.198; for the Claude see fig.69.

Matthew Imms
March 2013

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