Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lecture Diagram: Colour Circle No.1

c.1824–8

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

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 556 x 762 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D17149
Turner Bequest CXCV 178

Display caption

Turner created only two diagrams dealing with colour theory. He used them in a lecture on atmospheric perspective: the use of colour, light and shade to lend a picture a sense of depth.

This diagram illustrates the behaviour of colour in light. Turner used it to address colour symbolism of the times of day, explaining that the upper and lower portions of the diagram represent the light and dark of day and night. He told his students ‘suppose the yellow triangle light, red and blue shade; and hence we have grey morning, the yellow midday and crimson evening’.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry