Joseph Mallord William Turner

Dark Landscape with Trees and Mountains

c.1798–9

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

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Dimensions
None
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D02380
Turner Bequest LI M

Display caption

This is an oil sketch for a historic landscape with a dead or dying
figure. It was based on a drawing
in a sketchbook Turner used in Wales
in 1798. Turner has aimed for warm
and rich colouring, in order to evoke
a sombre mood and a grand effect. Unusually, he first prepared the canvas with a pink ground, in order to deepen the tone of his paint.

 

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

34a. [D02380] A Dark Landscape with Trees and Mountains c. 1798–9

THE BRITISH MUSEUM, LONDON (LI-M)
Canvas, approx. 12 1/4 × 15 1/4 (31·5 × 39)
Coll. Turner Bequest 1856.
Lit. Ziff 1980, p. 167.

Based on a pencil drawing in the ‘Dinevor Castle’ sketchbook, used by Turner in the summer of 1798 (XL-8 verso). This was described by Finberg (1909, p. 94) as ‘Sketch for historical composition: perhaps one of the Plagues of Egypt’, but, although there are several figures in the landscape, this identification seems far-fetched. The figure lying on the ground on the left is itself the subject of a separate drawing on page 73 recto of the same sketchbook, where it is accompanied by a partly erased female figure; Andrew Wilton (verbal communication) has suggested that they represent Pyramus and Thisbe.

In the painting only the figure on the ground remains, with a suggestion of blood as if the figure were dead; no other figures are shown. However, the picture is unfinished, the central tree lacking its full detail; there are other unresolved features, particularly the isolated stroke of paint just to the left of the central tree. Unusually for Turner, the picture is painted over a pink ground.


Published in:
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984