Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lecture Diagram: Ray of Light Passing through a Small Aperture


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 487 x 689 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCV 8

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.I, pl.I, fig.1) by John Joshua Kirby (1716–74). Kirby used it to describe ‘the Eye and the Nature of Vision’. Turner also sketched the diagram in a manuscript probably used for lecturing in 1819.1
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 Y folio 2 verso. On the dating of this lecture material, see John Gage, Colour in Turner: Poetry and Truth, London 1969, p.249 note 170 and Maurice William Davies, ‘J.M.W. Turner’s Approach to Perspective in His Royal Academy Lectures of 1811’, unpublished Ph.D thesis, Courtauld Institute of Art, London 1994, p.279.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 from a batch of Super Royal size Whatman paper made by Finch and Thomas Robert Hollingworth at Turkey Mill, Maidstone, Kent. This batch shows ‘both very good sheets as well as some outside, or retree, sheets where the “back” of the sheet, size spots and streaking, and formation shadows are visible’.1
Notes in Tate catalogue files.
Blank, save for an inscription by an unknown hand in pencil ‘35’ bottom left.

Andrea Fredericksen
June 2004

Supported by The Samuel H. Kress Foundation

Revised by David Blayney Brown
January 2012

Read full Catalogue entry

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