Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Inside Back Cover:
Comments on Reflections in Moving Water (Inscriptions by Turner) 1808–10
Inscribed by Turner in ink (see main catalogue entry) on white wove paper, 108 x 185 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Philip Gilbert Hamerton, The Life of J. M. W. Turner, R.A., London 1879, pp.123–6.
Walter Thornbury, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A. Founded on Letters and Papers Furnished by his Friends and Fellow-Academicians: A New Edition, Revised with 8 Coloured Illustrations after Turner’s Originals and 2 Woodcuts, London 1897, p.485.
A.J. Finberg, A Complete Inventory of the Drawings of the Turner Bequest, London 1909, vol.I, p.275, CV ‘inside of cover’.
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, pp.151–2.
Andrew Wilton and Rosalind Mallord Turner, Painting and Poetry: Turner’s ‘Verse Book’ and his Work of 1804–1812, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1990, p.131.
Anthony Bailey, Standing in the Sun: A Life of J.M.W. Turner, London 1997, pp.102, 179.
Turner’s inscription reads:
Reflections not only appear darker but longer than the | object which occasions them, and if the ripple or hollow | of the wave is long enough to make an angle with the eye it | is on these undulating lines that the object reflects, and | transmits all perpendicular objects lower towards the | Spectator. But in receding lines as well as objects, rules | seem to lose their power, and those guides to enable us to find | some cause to near objects lose or their : ... become enfeebled by | contraction to remote ones. It has been asserted that all objects | appear equal from the base line of the water, but this axiom I am | compelled to dissent with. It is true that [by inserted] placing the eye equal to the | water it comes nearest to the rule laid down, but when that water | is represented on which all things are to be reflected, it is no longer | a right angle, but according to the elevation of the Spectator becomes | more or less an angle of incidence
Turner’s early biographers, who published inaccurate versions of this passage, took it as evidence of Turner’s muddled thinking or his poor language skills. But Finberg observed that the transcription given by Thornbury ‘contains so many misreadings and errors that it reads like nonsense’ and published his own revised and corrected reading,1 closer to the one provided in the present catalogue, from which the gist seems clear enough. For further notes or a continuation of this passage, see folio 92 verso of the sketchbook (D07114). Turner’s observations arise from his preparations for his lectures as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy, delivered from 1811. Lecture 5 would be devoted to ‘Reflexes’ or reflections.
Finberg 1961, p.152.