Joseph Mallord William Turner

Inscription by Turner: Draft of the Conclusion of the ‘Backgrounds’ Perspective Lecture


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 117 x 87 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXIV 51

Catalogue entry

The whole page, turned vertically, is taken up with the following:
To you young Gentlemen must the | nation look for the further advancement | of our proffession [sic] and in our toil up | the steep ascent we have made [...] | any [...] our foot steps you | must mark and consider them positions | [?or] beacon in your course and [...] |
You in turn We shall make your | [...] [‘look forward with hope’ inserted above] to transmit to all those | who follow, and ultimately [?obey] the | joint endeavours of consi[...] [?‘zeal’ or ‘jeal’] | in the pursuit of all that is | meritorious to fix irrevocably | the triple standard of the art | in British Empire1
This rather tentative reading reflects Turner’s somewhat hesitant text. Maurice Davies suggests that this, the passage on folio 50 verso opposite (D08025) and notes on folios 45 verso and 46 recto (D08018, D08019) may be related to early drafts of Turner’s first or sixth Royal Academy perspective lectures, first delivered in 1811 (see the Introduction to the sketchbook), or notes for some other speech.2 In this case, as James Hamilton noted,3 the general sense is apparent and the passage is clearly a draft for the final paragraph of Turner’s ‘Backgrounds’ perspective lecture, the sixth and last of the series, which has fully transcribed from Turner’s manuscript and discussed by Jerrold Ziff.4 The relevant passage is as follows:
To you, therefore, young gentlemen, must the nation look for the further advancement of the profession. All that have toiled up the steep ascent have left, in their advancement, footsteps of value to succeeding assailants. You will mark them as positions or beacons in your course. To you, therefore, this institution offers its instructions and consigns their efforts, looking forward with the hope that <by your jealous guardianship to all who are still to follow> ultimately the joint endeavours of concording abilities will in the pursuit of all that is meritorious irrevocably fix the united Standard of Arts in the British Empire.5
For transcription of opening and closing lines see Hamilton 2003, p.99.
Davies 1994, p.290.
See Hamilton 1997, p.132, and Hamilton 2003, p.98.
Jerrold Ziff, ‘“Backgrounds, Introduction of Architecture and Landscape”: A Lecture by J.M.W. Turner’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, vol.26, 1963, pp.124–47.
Ibid., p.147 and footnote 89; also quoted in Hamilton 1997, p.132.
See Hamilton 1997, p.23.
Sir Joshua Reynolds, Discourses on Art, edited by Robert R. Wark, revised ed., New Haven and London 1997, p.282.

Matthew Imms
January 2012

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