Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lecture Diagram 17: Principles of Rectilinear Perspective (after Thomas Malton Senior)

c.1810

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

Medium
Pen and ink on paper
Dimensions
Support: 484 x 600 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D17030
Turner Bequest CXCV 60

Catalogue entry

As Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy, Turner spent a considerable portion of Lecture 2 defining terminology, and then moved on to the theory of rectilinear perspective as discussed by the elder Thomas Malton (1726–1801) in Book II of A Compleat Treatise on Perspective in Theory and Practice on the True Principles of Dr Brook Taylor 1775). Diagram 17 is based on an illustration from Malton’s treatise (pl.VI, fig.23) and paraphrases the author when Turner explains that the drawing is ‘intended to divest the partiality practitioners entertain for the horizontal line’.1 Turner adds that while the diagram ‘may appear rather intricate’ it is in reality ‘analyzable’. He uses it, along with Diagram 18 (Tate D17031; Turner Bequest CXCV 61), to emphasise that while perspective may appear complex and difficult, ‘the shortest way to perspective is through theory to practice, the loss of time (if any) will never be regretted’. Maurice Davies writes that the diagram ‘shows the importance of a general perspective theory applicable for all vanishing lines, not just the horizon’.
1
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 L folio 6 verso. For earlier versions of related lecture material, see D folio 4 and E folio 8 verso.
Technical notes:
Peter Bower states that the sheet is Royal size Whatman paper made by William Balston and Finch and Thomas Robert Hollingworth, at Turkey Mill, Maidstone, Kent. He writes that ‘all the group of papers with 1794 dates in the watermark show considerable process dirt and poor formation’. He attributes the lack of quality control to James Whatman’s stroke and the change of ownership at the mill.1
1
Notes in tate catalogue files.
Verso:
Blank, save for an inscription by an unknown hand in pencil ‘T.L. 441’ top left and ‘62’ bottom left.

Andrea Fredericksen
June 2004

Supported by The Samuel H. Kress Foundation

Revised by David Blayney Brown
January 2012

Read full Catalogue entry