Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lecture Diagram 8/2: Elevation of a Stoa or Portico (after James Stuart)

c.1810

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

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Pen and ink on paper
Dimensions
Support: 674 x 1003 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D17141
Turner Bequest CXCV 170

Display caption

Completed in outline form, this drawing of a classical portico allowed Turner to show how geometric elevations make it difficult to read the relationships and distances between columns and walls.

This is made particularly obvious when this drawing is compared to a ground plan of the structure’s exact arrangements (see the diagram shown to the left). As the elevation is a direct and flat projection of the portico from the side, the viewer cannot see how many columns are along the front of the building.

Gallery label, September 2004

Technique and condition

This lecture diagram on white wove Whatman paper shows four identical columns topped by an entablature, with the blocks of the wall behind the colonnade ruled in graphite pencil between one pair of columns, and strengthened with grey/black paint in the spaces behind three more columns. All the vertical lines are also strengthened with black paint, and some of the shadows in the bases are emphasised with browner wash to depict shadows. It is a copy of a lost original, as is Tracing of Guiding Lines (Tate D17132; Turner Bequest CXCV 161). There is no depiction of major shadows or their effects, in contrast to Tate D17142 (Turner Bequest CXCV 171) which illustrates this in several ways.
The present work was made by a copying process which Turner used to generate a limited number of copies from other lecture diagrams. It is rare that all or even most stages of the process survive, and there is no complete set in the Turner Bequest, since these materials were presumably transported to and used for a number of lectures over the years. He needed several copies so that he could if he chose illustrate the drawing of a single element such as a column alone, then later with perspectival lines going to a single point, or built up to a colonnade of identical columns, or used to illustrate the way to make a smooth column look three-dimensional by shading. He could also use such a colonnade to form part of the elevation of a building, as in this example, with the vertical fluting of one column illustrated, to show its portrayal as a three-dimensional form.
The process seems to have involved placing a blank sheet on a table, overlaying double-sided copying paper, followed by another blank sheet, another sheet of double-sided copying paper, and the image to be copied. In this case it would have been either a single column or a four-column colonnade, drawn in outline. Then he pressed down hard on each ruled line of the top copy with a sharp tool run against a ruler, and unpacked the paper stack to reveal one good and one pale copy, with little smudging on the ‘good’ sides. If necessary, he strengthened straight lines in the copies, which would both be identical and not reversed, and then he hand-applied the curved elements freehand as necessary, and/or painted the lines to make them bold enough to demonstrate to a large audience in a room lit artificially. Sets of copies identified thus far include: Building in Perspective (Tate D17051; CXCV 81) which is an upper copy of a lost original and A House in Perspective, Lecture Diagram 36 (D17052; CXCV 82), and Building (D17053; CXCV 83) which are both lower copies of comparable originals; the original Column (D17061; CXCV 91) which was used to make Tuscan Column in Perspective, Lecture Diagram 40 (D17058; CXCV 88) as the upper copy and Perspective Construction of a Tuscan Column, Lecture Diagram 41 (D17060; CXCV 90) as the lower copy; Tracing of Guiding Lines of Diagram of Capital, Tuscan Entablature Worked Out in Perspective (D17077; CXCV 107) which was used as the original for the copies Capital, Tuscan Entablature Worked Out in Perspective (D17076; CXCV 106) and Tuscan entablature (D17079; CXCV 109); and the group discussed here.

Julia Jönsson
January 2007

Revised by Joyce Townsend
March 2011

Catalogue entry

Finberg mistakenly associated this diagram with the colonnade of Carlton House, London, for which see Diagram 8/9 (Tate D17143; Turner Bequest CXCV 172). Instead, it is a side elevation of a classical stoa or portico based on plates published in James ‘Athenian’ Stuart’s and Nicholas Revett’s The Antiquities of Athens (1762, vol.I, chap.V, pls.II and IV). It is one of three diagrams made by Turner from these illustrations for his lectures as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy (see also Tate D17140 and D17142; Turner Bequest CXCV 169, 171). Stuart and Revett describe the building as one ‘commonly supposed to be the remains of the Temple of Jupiter Olympus’ (the Olympieion).
Turner uses the diagram to illustrate how geometric elevations rendered in simple outline make it difficult to read the relationships and distances between columns and walls. This is made particularly obvious when compared to the ground plan of the actual layout of the structure (D17140). As the elevation is a direct and flat projection of the portico from the side, the viewer cannot see how many columns are along the building’s front. D17142 is another side elevation of the same building, this time with colour and shading.
Turner does not discuss Stuart and Revett’s plans and elevations in the version of Lecture 1 delivered in 1811, although a reference to ‘Stuart’s Athens Drawing’ pencilled in the margin of his text indicates that he may have introduced the topic in subsequent re-workings of the material.1 A later manuscript also used for lecturing refers directly to all three diagrams.2 The material is also discussed in a lecture manuscript titled ‘Light, Shade, and Reflexies’.3 There is a preliminary sketch in a manuscript filled with Turner’s notes.4
1
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 K folio 13 verso.
2
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 J folio 13.
3
Private collection, folio 21–2.
4
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 BB folio 33.
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 files.

Andrea Fredericksen
June 2004

Revised by David Blayney Brown
January 2012

Read full Catalogue entry