Joseph Mallord William TurnerLecture Diagram 36: Basic Perspective Construction of a House c.1810

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Artwork details

Artist
Title
Lecture Diagram 36: Basic Perspective Construction of a House
Date c.1810
MediumGraphite and watercolour on paper
Dimensionssupport: 677 x 1005 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D17050
Turner Bequest CXCV 80
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Catalogue entry

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Lecture Diagram 36: Basic Perspective Construction of a House circa 1810
D17050
Turner Bequest CXCV 80
Pencil and watercolour on white wove paper, 677 x 1005 mm
Watermarked ‘J WHATMAN | 1808’
Inscribed by Turner in red watercolour ‘36’ top left
Inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘80’ bottom right
 
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Prepared by Turner for Lecture 3 as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy, Diagram 36 demonstrates how to develop the simple double cube or rectangular object of shown in Diagram 35 (Tate D17049; Turner Bequest CXCV 79) into a house with basic architectural features. Turner’s intention is to illustrate how ‘every cube and circle is convertible into a building by subdivisions or addition’.1 He uses a plan-based method to find the position of the structure’s windows, door, pediment, and cornice. The procedure is discussed in the early version of Lecture 3 and also in the manuscript used for lecturing.2 According to Maurice Davies, because Turner failed to accurately locate the vanishing points when drawing the double cube in the previous diagram, the error is continued in this perspective construction of the house. That Turner’s mistake is so fundamental, yet his experience of perspective so extensive, leads Davies to conclude that Turner may simply not have been concerned with the geometrical accuracy of perspective methods.3 Instead, Turner may have drawn elements of the diagram free-hand, possibly basing it on a small sketch recorded in the first draft of Lecture 3.4 Another diagram numbered 36 (Tate D17052; Turner Bequest CXCV 82) is a watercolour drawing of the same house in perspective, and may illustrate as the final step of the procedure.
1
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 M folio 8.
2
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 F folios 5 verso–8 verso and M folios 8–11 verso. For later additions to material, see M folios 33 and verso and Z folios 4 –5, 9.
3
Davies 1992, p.45.
4
Davies 1994, p.116; Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 F folio 5 verso.
Technical notes:
Peter Bower states that the sheet is Double Elephant size Whatman paper made by William Balston, at Springfield Mill, Maidstone, Kent. The largest group within the perspective drawings, this batch of paper shows a ‘grid-like series of shadows that can be seen within the sheet in transmitted light. This appears to have been caused by a trial method of supporting the woven wire mould cover on the mould’. Because this is the only batch he has seen with such a feature, Bower believes that ‘it may have been tried on one pair of moulds and for some reason never tried again’. He also writes that it is ‘not the best Whatman paper by any means; the weight of this group is also very variable and the moulds have not been kept clean during use’.1
1
Notes in Tate catalogue fioes.
Verso:
Blank, save for an inscription by an unknown hand in pencil ‘82’ bottom left.

Andrea Fredericksen
June 2004

Supported by The Samuel H. Kress Foundation

Revised by David Blayney Brown
January 2012

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