View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
A finished watercolour of the subject was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1798 (346) as The Refectory of Kirkstall Abbey, Yorkshire. It is now in Sir John Soane’s Museum, London,1 having been bought from the artist’s gallery by Soane’s wife in 1804.2 The subject continued a theme that Turner had developed in his highly successful watercolour of The Transept of Ewenny Priory, Glamorganshire (National Museum Wales, Cardiff)3 shown the previous year and based on an outline sketch in his Smaller South Wales sketchbook (Tate D00472; Turner Bequest XXV 11). Turner reused the Kirkstall design for the Liber Studiorum, published in 1812 (Tate impressions: A00988, A00989); his watercolour drawing for that plate is Tate D08142 (Turner Bequest CXVII O).
He studied the twelfth-century Cistertian abbey and its buildings in more detail than almost any other of the main antiquarian sites he visited on this tour. Other drawings of Kirkstall are on the rectos of folios 12–17 (D00917–D00922; Turner Bequest XXXIV 11–16). The present sheet was given an Add. inventory number, having been removed by John Ruskin, as he noted, for separate display. Further studies of the abbey are in the Tweed and Lakes sketchbook (Tate D01005, D01006; Turner Bequest XXXV 2, 3).
The subject is drawn with the page turned horizontally.
The page is discoloured from exposure; the lower right corner has been torn away, and made good with similar paper.
Blank; stamped in brown ink with Turner Bequest monogram.