Joseph Mallord William Turner

Frontispiece to the ‘Liber Studiorum’

c.1810–11

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

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Etching and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 299 x 384 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Bequeathed by Henry Vaughan 1900
Reference
D08150
Turner Bequest CXVII V

Catalogue entry

Provenance:
...
Charles Stokes
Bequeathed to Mary Constance Clarke 1853
...
Henry Vaughan by 1878
Engraved:
Etching and mezzotint by Turner and J.C. Easling, untitled, published Turner, 23 May 1812 (see main catalogue entry)
Turner’s design for the frontispiece to the Liber Studiorum incorporates aspects of all the subject categories the series encompassed, as set out on the wrappers in which each part was issued: ‘landscape compositions, viz. historical, mountainous, pastoral, marine, and architectural’.1 Thornbury summed up its purpose: ‘As an overture contains hints of all there will be in an opera, so does this title-page foretell much that follows.’2 However, Turner would not necessarily have considered the design at the outset, as it was not issued until some five years into the Liber project (see publication details below), allowing him to include details retrospectively referencing specific elements from the published plates.
The pictorial space is logical, but imaginary. As Gillian Forrester notes, the composition is in a long tradition of illustrated frontispieces bringing together various elements relevant to the text in a decorative or symbolic design (which Turner was to follow again to introduce his set of historical Fairfaxiana watercolour illustrations for Walter Fawkes).3 Undergrowth and water plants embody the rustic ‘Pastoral’ category. Similar lily pads and bulrushes appear in Turner’s 1819 vignette watercolour for the cover of Fawkes’s copy of his collection catalogue (private collection;4 see also etching by F.C. Lewis: Tate T06031); they have been interpreted in that context as visual puns on the palettes and brushes which also appear, as ‘an almost competitive dialogue between Nature and Art’.5 In the present design there are similar analogies between the natural plant forms and their classical architectural equivalents.
The blank Gothic arcade evokes Rivaux Abbey (for drawing see Tate D09154; Turner Bequest CXVII Z) and the Romanesque, Holy Island Cathedral (Tate D08115; Turner Bequest CXVI N); together they establish the ‘Architectural’ framework. Everyday objects are mingled with symbols; what appear to be a basket of eggs and a pie, barrels and a spade lie below the central picture. The fish in the foreground do not appear elsewhere in the Liber, though they echo such still life elements in a number of Turner’s beach scenes such as Sun Rising through Vapour; Fishermen Cleaning and Selling Fish, exhibited in 1807 (National Gallery, London);6 the oars and sail-like banners beside them (on which the Liber engravers were listed in the subsequent print) also evoke the ‘Marine’.
1
Forrester 1996, reproduced p.12 fig.3; similar wrapper held with Tate’s Liber prints (no accession number).
2
Walter Thornbury, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A. Founded on Letters and Papers Furnished by his Friends and Fellow-Academicians, London 1862 [1861], vol.I, p.276.
3
Forrester 1996, pp.45, 46 note 2; see also p.31; ‘Fairfaxiana’ frontispiece: Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.367 no.582, reproduced; Luke Herrmann, Ruskin and Turner: A Study of Ruskin as a Collector of Turner, Based on his Gifts to the University of Oxford; Incorporating a Catalogue Raisonné of the Turner Drawings in the Ashmolean Museum, London 1968, pp.94–5 no.77, pl.XVII.
4
Not catalogued in Wilton 1979.
5
Jan Piggott, Turner’s Vignettes, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1993, p.34.
6
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.53–4 no.69 pl.79.
7
Brooke 1885, p.2.
8
Forrester 1996, p.46 and note 3.
9
Ovid, Metamorphoses, II.833–75.
10
‘Europa’, in Jane Davidson Reid and Chris Rohmann, The Oxford Guide to Classical Mythology in the Arts, 1300–1990s, London 1993, vol.I, pp.421–9.
11
Nos.111, 136, 144 (British Museum, London, 1957–12–14–117, 142 and 150).
12
See Marcel Röthlisberger, Claude Lorrain: The Paintings, London 1961, vol.I, pp.276–7, 326–8.
13
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.303, as cited in Forrester 1996, p.47 note 6.
14
Cook and Wedderburn VII 1903, pp.434–5.
15
Ibid., XXI 1906, pp.215–16, 223.
16
Brooke 1885, p.4.
17
Forrester 1996, p.46.
18
Finley 1999, p.49
19
Forrester 1996, p.45 no.1 i, reproduced, as ‘M22707.1’; Joseph R. Goldyne, J.M.W. Turner: Works on Paper from American Collections, exhibition catalogue, University Art Museum, Berkeley, California 1975, p.163 no.L49, reproduced p.167.
20
Forrester 1996, p.46 and note 5.
21
Ibid., pp.45, 46, as ‘M22707.3’; Goldyne 1975, p.163 no.L50, reproduced p.167; Herrmann 1990, p.59, reproduced p.58 pl.44.
22
Forrester 1996, p.45 no.1ii, reproduced; Goldyne 1975, p.163 no.L51, reproduced p.168.
23
Herrmann 1990, p.254 note 72.
24
Forrester 1996, pp.160–1 (transcribed).
25
Finberg 1924, p.xliii; Forrester 1996, p.13.
26
Rawlinson 1878, pp.97–106; 1906, pp.114–24; Finberg 1924, pp.185–204.
27
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.302–3 no.514, pl.516 (colour); see Shanes 1990, pp.292–4.
28
Rawlinson 1878, p.197; 1906, p.[231]; Finberg 1924, p.4.
29
Martin Hardie, The Liber Studiorum Mezzotints of Sir Frank Short, R.A., P.R.E. after J.M.W. Turner, R.A. Catalogue & Introduction, London 1938, pp.43–4 no.1.
30
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986 – 88, London 1996, p.69.
31
Herrmann 1990, p.254 note 72.
32
See Frits Lugt, Les Marques de collections de dessins & d’estampes ..., Amsterdam 1921, pp.81, 515.
33
Rawlinson 1906, p.6 under collector’s mark no.1; Lugt 1921, p.81 no.449 (each giving ‘Mary’ in full).
34
Rawlinson 1878, p.8.
35
Lugt 1921, p.246 no.1380.
1
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files.
2
Finberg 1924, p.3.

Matthew Imms
August 2008

1
Rawlinson 1906, p.6 under collector’s mark no.1; Lugt 1921, p.81 no.449, reproduced.
2
Rawlinson 1906, p.6 collector’s mark no.1, reproduced; Lugt 1921, p.515 no.2758, reproduced.

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