Joseph Mallord William Turner

Cassiobury Park: the South and East Fronts


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

Graphite on paper
Support: 339 x 742 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXX a

Display caption

Turner ruled many of the lines in this drawing, but they do not meet at vanishing points. The vertical lines were used to assist with drawing details of the windows etc.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

For Cassiobury Park, near Watford, and Turner’s views of the house made for the 5th Earl of Essex in 1807, see catalogue notes to the Fonthill sketchbook (Tate D02215–D02222, D02227, D02234, D02235; Turner Bequest XLVII 38–45, 50, 57–8). Turner was commissioned to record the remodelling of the house in a monastic Gothic style by James Wyatt in 1801–3. A recent visit by Turner to Cassiobury was noted by Joseph Farington on 15 November 1807.1 Four watercolours by him were engraved by John Hill in 1816 and published in John Britton’s The History and Description of Cassiobury Park, 1817, 1837. With the exception of The Great Cloister (private collection, USA),2 these usually show the huge house at some distance and integrated into its park, laid out by Humphry Repton.
The present drawing is by far the largest of Turner’s Cassiobury studies and was probably made in his room in the house; his note of the colour of the window frames and internal blinds suggests his memory was fresh. The south and east fronts are shown, to the left and right of the drawing respectively, at a raking angle that defies the laws of perspective; as Davies notes, although Turner made extensive use of a ruler, the ruled lines do not meet at vanishing points. Perhaps with a more detailed close-up view in mind than his other commissioned subjects, Turner expanded the perspective to show as much of the two sides of the house as possible. Both are also depicted in the Fonthill sketchbook; the south, which terminated in the chapel, on folio 40 (D02217; Turner Bequest XLVII 40), and the east on folios 38 and 44 (D02215, D02221; Turner Bequest XLVII 38, 44). A more distant view of the south front, in watercolour and reproduced in Britton’s book, is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.3
Kathryn Cave, ed., The Diary of Joseph Farington, vol.VIII, New Haven and London 1982, p.3141.
Wilton 1979, p.320 no.192.
Ibid., p.320 no.189.
Technical notes:
The paper was made by William Balston and Finch and Thomas Robert Hollingworth at Turkey Hill, Maidstone, Kent. The edges are worn and there is a repair at top centre and an old tear at top right.

David Blayney Brown
December 2009

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