Joseph Mallord William Turner

Moonlight, a Study at Millbank

exhibited 1797

Medium
Oil paint on mahogany
Dimensions
Support: 314 x 403 mm
frame: 507 x 602 x 115 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
N00459

Display caption

Turner's first oil shown at the Royal Academy was a marine nocturne, shown in 1796. This night piece of the Thames, from a position near that of Tate Britain, belongs to the following year. Moonlight effects were a fashionable pictorial convention, mainly derived from Dutch seventeenth-century painters like Aert van der Neer then popular with British collectors. Here, however, the impression is of an uncontrived naturalism.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

2. [N00459] Moonlight, a Study at Millbank Exh. 1797

THE TATE GALLERY, LONDON (459)
Mahogany, 12 3/8 × 15 7/8 (31·5 × 40·5).
Coll. Turner Bequest 1856 (96, ‘River Scene Moonlight’ 1'4" × 1'0 1/2"); transferred to the Tate Gallery 1910.

Exh. R.A. 1797 (136); Tate Gallery 1931 (2); R.A. 1974–5 (20); Hamburg 1976 (6, repr.).

Lit. Thornbury 1862, i, pp. 258, 261; ii, p. 331; 1877, pp. 92, 417–18; Hamerton 1879, p. 50; Bell 1901, p. 71 no. 82; Armstrong 1902, pp. 31, 225; Finberg 1910, pp. 28–9; Davies 1946, p. 187; Clare 1951, p. 18; Finberg 1961, pp. 42, 459 no. 33; Rothenstein and Butlin 1964, pp. 8–10, pl. 6; Gaunt 1971, p. 4, colour pl. 2; Wilton 1979, pp. 41 n. 37, 51.

For a long time, until the identification of the 1796 Fishermen at Sea (No. 1), regarded as Turner's ‘first exhibited oil-picture’ (Thornbury 1862, i, p. 258). It is perhaps just possible that this picture is imperfectly remembered in a note by the engraver Bell, as given by Thornbury (1862, i, p. 75) of how ‘Mr. Bell stood by in the little room in Maiden-lane when Turner made his first attempt in oil, from a sketch in crayon, of a sunset on the Thames, near the Red House, Battersea’.

Unlike the other oil exhibited in 1797 no.1 (T01585) this picture does not seem to have attracted any critical attention.


Published in:
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984

Press Release

Turner and the Masters

2009
Turner and the Masters: Press related to past exhibition.

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