Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lecture Diagram: An Object Lying Flat on the Ground, or Plane Perpendicular to the Picture


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

Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 480 x 597 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCV 17

Catalogue entry

Prepared in connection with his lectures as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy, Turner’s diagram is based on a plate from Dr Brook Taylor’s Method of Perspective Made Easy; both in Theory and Practice: in Two Books (London 1768, vol.II, pl.I, fig.10) by John Joshua Kirby (1716–74). Kirby used it in a chapter on practical perspective to describe ‘Objects which lie flat upon the ground, or that are in planes perpendicular to the picture’.1 It applies, more specifically, to Rule 6: ‘Having given the centre C of the picture, the vanishing line H L, and two vanishing points H, L, of a square b d o f; to find the distance of the picture’.2 There is a sketch of the diagram in a manuscript used by Turner for lecturing, perhaps in 1819.3
Kirby 1768, Book II, p.7.
Ibid., p.14.
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 Z folio 9. On the lecture manuscript, see Maurice William Davies, ‘J.M.W. Turner’s Approach to Perspective in His Royal Academy Lectures of 1811’, unpublished Ph.D thesis, Courtauld Institute of Art, London 1994, p.279.
Technical notes:
Peter Bower writes that the sheet is medium size Whatman paper made by William Balston, at Springfield Mill, Maidstone, Kent; ‘the best made of all the papers found amongst the perspective drawings’.1
Notes in Tate catalogue files.
Blank, save for an inscription by an unknown hand in pencil ‘44’ bottom left.

Andrea Fredericksen
June 2004

Supported by The Samuel H. Kress Foundation

Revised by David Blayney Brown
January 2012

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