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

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 99 x 159 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D13394
Turner Bequest CLXV 41 a

Catalogue entry

Although most of the sketches in the 1818 Scottish sketchbooks exclude any notion of the weather, there are a few that include clouds, and in these cases Turner has taken as much care to record their shape and appearance as he has with landscape and architecture (see Tour of Scotland 1818 Tour Introduction). Turner also made a series of thumbnail sketches of skies (Edinburgh, 1818 sketchbook Tate D13331, D13494; Turner Bequest CLXVI 6, 23a), and recorded the ‘Effect of Twylight’ (Tate D13562–D13563; Turner Bequest CLXVI 58a, 59).
In this sketch he shows clouds in all their forms: low solid-looking stratus, fluffy-edged cumulus, and wispy cirrus. To achieve these different effects Turner has used a variety of pencil strokes: long continuous lines, random-looking wave-shapes, scribbles and hatching. Clouds are a particular feature of many of the Provincial Antiquities designs, with a great variety of types exhibited in different illustrations, and sometimes, as in Bass Rock, circa 1824 (watercolour, Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight), 1 several different types in one design. The translation of Turner’s watercolour clouds into print took all the ingenuity of his engravers as can be seen when comparing different stages of the print. Engraved proofs of both Edinburgh from Calton Hill and Tantallon Castle show that some of the more solid cloud formations could be depicted with etched lines (Tate T04490, T04490), while haze and mist had to be engraved (Tate T04491, T04491).
Many of Turner’s sketchbooks contain studies of clouds (for examples there are many cloud studies in the Wilson Sketchbook and other weather effects (e.g. Tate D01118–D01174; D01177–D01246; D40762–D40763 complete sketchbook; Turner Bequest XXXVII). However as Dr Cecilia Powell points out: ‘He would sketch and write notes on different phenomena as they occurred, but when he came to depict a place in a painting or watercolour he would feature whatever meteorological effects he felt appropriate to his subject’.2

Thomas Ardill
November 2007

1
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.426 no.1069.
2
Dr Cecilia Powell, ‘Weather During Tours’, in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin, Luke Hermann eds., The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford, 2001, p.374.

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