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High Force is about thirteen miles north-west of Barnard Castle, in the remote country of Upper Teesdale, and in this sketch Turner records the view from the pool at the foot of the falls. The sketching figure raises the question of his identity; perhaps it is meant to be Turner himself as there is no record of his having company during this part of his itinerary. High Force was one of the major subjects of Turner’s 1816 tour and it is said that he stayed so long sketching that he was benighted there, and had to be led to safety by a shepherd.1 He made a considerable number of sketches and similar subjects occur in the Yorkshire 2 and Yorkshire 5 sketchbooks (Tate D11204, D11202; Turner Bequest CXLV 101a, 100a, and Tate D11536; Turner Bequest CXLVIII 9a), the latter including one of a seated figure at the top of the falls (Tate D11534; Turner Bequest CXLVIII 8a). The idea of the seated figure sketching was carried over into a studio watercolour, Fall of the Tees, Yorkshire (Indianapolis Museum of Art)2 painted in about 1825 and engraved in 1827 for the series Picturesque Views in England and Wales.
Hill 1984, p.74–5 notes that indications of the direction of the light suggest that the sketches at High Force were taken in the morning, but argues that the story might well relate to the end of the same day as Turner descended from High Cup Nick.
Wilton 1979, p.392 no.790.
Hill, Warburton and Tussey 1980, p.27 under no.23.
Wilton 1979, p.362 no.541.
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After Joseph Mallord William Turner High Force or Fall of Tees