View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
Drawn with the page turned horizontally, the view is from a point near the southern end of Crummock Water, Buttermere Hause, with a distant glimpse of Buttermere itself. Turner has worked up his pencil drawing in sombre greys and greens, and records a rainstorm with a rainbow. He made it the basis for an oil painting exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1798 under the title Buttermere Lake, with part of Cromackwater, Cumberland, a Shower (Tate N00460)1 accompanying the catalogue entry with a five-line quotation from Thomson’s Spring.
There has been much debate as to the relationship between picture and watercolour study. Ziff argues that the colour was added after Turner had returned to London, but there is no reason to suppose that this was the case unless all the colour in the two sketchbooks for the northern tour was added later, from memory.2 This does not seem likely. Given the rainy conditions, however, it is probable that he waited until he had got back to his Keswick lodgings before using watercolour on this occasion. See remarks in this sketchbook’s Introduction. In discussing the oil painting, Finberg draws attention to the extreme blackness of the tones, a trait that he attributes to Turner’s wish to emulate Richard Wilson (1713–1782). As the artist’s inscription in the drawing makes clear, however, his impression at the time was one of very sombre colour.
Blank; stamped in brown ink with Turner Bequest monogram; inscribed by Turner in pen and brown ink ‘Buttermere Lake from Rawlin Knot’, by John Ruskin in brown ink ‘59’, and by A.J. Finberg in pencil ‘81’. Rawlin Knot is now known as Rannerdale Knot or Knotts; see folio 42 recto (D01031; Turner Bequest XXXV 29).