Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lecture Diagram: Perspective Representation of a Triangle

c.1810–28

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: 487 x 601 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D17020
Turner Bequest CXCV 50

Display caption

This unfinished diagram is based on an illustration from Thomas Malton’s
A Compleat Treatise on Perspective 1775, which demonstrated ‘how to find the perspective representation of a triangle, having the original line given, in any plane, whose intersection and vanishing line is also given, and the place of the eye’.


Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

Made in connection with Turner’s lectures as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy, this diagram is based on a figure from A Compleat Treatise on Perspective in Theory and Practice on the True Principles of Dr Brook Taylor (1775, pl.XI, fig.56) by the elder Thomas Malton (1726–1802). Malton used it to illustrate Problem XVIII: ‘How to find the perspective representation of a triangle, having the original line given, in any plane, whose intersection and vanishing line is also given, and the place of the eye’.1 1 Not knowing its original source, scholars from John Ruskin onwards have positioned the diagram upside down, with the triangle at the top. Suggesting that this diagram might represent a cloud, Judy Egerton continued: ‘the point of view (or point of sight) is the point within the uncompleted circle (or station) at the bottom of the drawing. The longer line across the centre is the horizon line, the shorter line above it is the ground line, and the black triangle is the unidentified flying object in a view (?a cloud)’.2
1
Malton 1775, p.140.
2
Egerton [and Ellis] 1980, p.[5]
Verso:
Currently laid down.

Andrea Fredericksen
January 2004

Supported by The Samuel H. Kress Foundation

Revised by David Blayney Brown
January 2012

Read full Catalogue entry

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