Joseph Mallord William Turner

Distant View of Fonthill Abbey, Looking over Undulating Country


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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Support: 83 x 166 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXVI 125 a

Catalogue entry

This study was made with the page turned horizontally. The Turner scholar C.F. Bell’s confirmation1 of Finberg’s conjecture that the architectural sketch on folio 127 recto opposite (D03964; Turner Bequest LXVI 126) represents Fonthill2 suggests that this panoramic landscape may also be a view of the egregious Gothic Abbey built by William Beckford in Wiltshire: the small sketch is positioned exactly above the tower in the panorama, and tends to support the contention (see under folio 87 recto; D03923) that the book was used at Fonthill, rather than that this landscape composition sketch, schematic as it is, was made elsewhere.
In 1799 Turner visited the house to make preparatory drawings for the five large watercolours he exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1800 (private collection; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Montréal Museum of Fine Arts; National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh; Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester).3 All of these depict the house with its tall tower (still under construction) high on a distant ridge, and one of them, the East View (National Galleries of Scotland),4 corresponds roughly to the view in this drawing.
The Turner Bequest page number ‘125’ is stamped on two consecutive leaves (see also folio 125 recto; D03962; Turner Bequest LXIV 125). The present drawing is on the verso of the second leaf, the recto of which is blank and lacking a Tate accession number, albeit stamped LXVI – 125’ at the bottom right. See also the technical notes in the sketchbook’s Introduction.

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

C.F. Bell (died 1966), undated MS note in copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, I, p.168.
See Finberg 1909, I, p.168.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.338 nos.335–339, reproduced, and pl.53.
Ibid., no.338, reproduced.

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