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In 1799 Turner received a commission for a series of views from Willian Beckford, an eccentric and very wealthy landowner, who was just then constructing his gothic abbey at Fonthill, not far from Salisbury. In the five large watercolours that Turner subsequently exhibited at the Royal Academy, he depicted the incomplete abbey from different points on the estate, but the titles given in the catalogue emphasised Turner's aim of recreating specific times of day in each drawing: morning, noon, afternoon, sunset and evening. In some of the sketches he made for the series, such as this work, it is clear that he had already begun to understand the dramatic possibilities inherent in naturalistic effects.

September 2004