Joseph Mallord William Turner

?Molesey Weir, on the River Thames near Hampton Court

c.1827

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

Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 110 x 185 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D20786
Turner Bequest CCXXVII 34

Catalogue entry

This substantial structure may be Molesey Weir, running from the south bank of the Thames at East Molesey across to the eastern tip of Ash Island, with the wooded north bank beyond, just upstream of Molesey Lock (see folio 41 recto; D20795; Turner Bequest CCXXVII 39) and about a quarter of a mile west of Hampton Court Bridge (see folios 40 recto and 42 verso; D20793, D20798; Turner Bequest CCXXVII 38, 40a).
The weir was rebuilt in 1859, and again in the early 1880s1 with a roofed walkway, and has been substantially restructured again in recent years,2 but Turner’s view is comparable with that shown in a well-known painting of 1874 by Alfred Sisley (1839–1899), Molesey Weir, Hampton Court (National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh).3 A watercolour of 1827 (British Library, London) by Edward Hassell (died 1852)4 shows the original wooden superstructure very clearly from a similar angle (but a higher viewpoint) as it had been at the time of Turner’s use of the present sketchbook around Hampton Court Palace, for which see under folio 2 verso (D20736).
Alternatively, Ian Warrell has suggested that the sketch, ‘suggesting a familiar place, frequented from time to time’, may show an unspecified weir at Houghton on the River Test in Hampshire, in connection with Turner’s contact with the exclusive Houghton Fishing Club.5 There are no other identified sketches of that relatively isolated inland part of the county in this book (though for Portsmouth views made when travelling to or from the Isle of Wight see under folio 10 recto; D20747), and studies of a smaller weir in the later Fishing at the Weir sketchbook such as Tate D27752 (Turner Bequest CCLXXXI 15a) are perhaps more likely candidates.6
1
See ‘Thameside Molesey: Rowland G.M. Baker, 1989: Lock and Weir’, moleseyhistory.co.uk, accessed 27 October 2015, http://www.moleseyhistory.co.uk/books/molesey/tm/tm_7.htm, and ‘Molesey Lock’, Where Thames Smooth Waters Glide, accessed 26 October 2015, http://thames.me.uk/s00380.htm.
2
See Environment Agency photographs at ‘Molesey Weir Upgrade’, flickr, accessed 27 October 2015, https://www.flickr.com/photos/environment-agency/sets/72157633341259199.
3
Reproduced at ‘Ash Island’, Where Thames Smooth Waters Glide, accessed 26 October 2015, http://thames.me.uk/s00381.htm.
4
Reproduced at ‘Thameside Molesey: Rowland G.M. Baker, 1989: Lock and Weir’, moleseyhistory.co.uk, accessed 27 October 2015, http://www.moleseyhistory.co.uk/books/molesey/tm/tm_7.htm.
5
Warrell 2015, p.177.
6
As suggested ibid.; for Turner and fishing in general see See James Hamilton, ‘Fishing’ in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann (eds.), The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, p.110.
Technical notes:
Turner has scratched through the grey wash (common to all the rectos in this sketchbook) to show the water passing over the weir and the turbulence of the river’s surface below.
Verso:
Blank, save for small dabs of watercolour at the edges, presumably as colour tests for the landscape on folio 37 recto opposite (D20787; Turner Bequest CCXXVII 35).

Matthew Imms
November 2015

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