Joseph Mallord William Turner

Design for a Title for the ‘Liber Studiorum’

c.1806

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

Medium
Pen and ink on paper
Dimensions
Support: 118 x 185 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D05385
Turner Bequest LXXXVII 10

Catalogue entry

This design is not recorded in Finberg’s Inventory as it was presumably laid down, the recto of the sheet (D05384; Turner Bequest LXXXVII 9) having been included in the First Loan Collection touring display. Finberg only listed his LXXXVII 10 as bracketed with 9, without description. He did, however, gain access to it in time to describe it in his 1924 book.
For the Liber Studiorum, Turner’s collection of images representing types of landscape, see Tate D08084–D08106, D08108–D08123, D08125–D08142, D08144–D08187; D08222, D08231, D25373, D25451; D40043, D40045, D40141, D41481, D40351–D40381; N02782, N02941, N02942, N03631; Turner (or Vaughan) Bequest CXVI 1–29, 31–48, CXVI A–E, G–V, X–Z, CXVII A–Z, CXVIII A–Z, a–h, CXX I, Q, CCLXIII 328, 251. Turner’s draft title is written within a drawn outline or cartouche, with an additional motif added on the right, perhaps intended to denote a palette and cornucopia. It reads:
No 1 of | Liber – Studiorum ... | being | Studies for Pictures in History | Mountain Pastoral Marine | and Architectural Landscapes | Price 15
Finberg, followed by Herrmann, located the origin of Turner’s idea for a title within an ornamental frame in Paul Sandby’s series of aquatints, XII Views in South Wales, 1775 and XII Views in North Wales, 1776. Finberg read Turner’s wording differently from this writer, so that the title ended ‘...Architecture – and Landscapes’. He thought it ‘ludicrous’ but indicative of ‘the difficulties which the proposed system of classification presented to Turner’s mind’. No less revealing of Turner, perhaps, is that even at such an early stage he was already thinking of price!
The presence of this early idea for the Liber in this sketchbook underlines its connections with the engraver Charles Turner and the artist William Frederick Wells. The impressive roster of subscribers for Charles Turner’s mezzotint of Turner’s Shipwreck, listed on folios 1 verso, 2 verso and 5 verso (D05377, D05379, D05399; Turner Bequest LXXXVII 2, 4, 24) must have encouraged Turner to consider a more ambitious project including the same engraver. Wells, who with his family subscribed to the Shipwreck plate, is thought to have first suggested the Liber while the artist was staying with him at his cottage at Knockholt, Kent in autumn 1806. This study probably dates from around that time or even from the visit itself.

David Blayney Brown
January 2006

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