88. [T03877] Near the Thames' Lock, Windsor Exh. 1809
TATE GALLERY AND THE NATIONAL TRUST (LORD EGREMONT COLLECTION) PETWORTH HOUSE
Canvas, 35 × 46 1/2 (88·9 × 118)
Signed ‘J M W Turner RA’ bottom right
Coll. Bought by the third Earl of Egremont perhaps from Turner's gallery in 1809; by descent to the third Lord Leconfield, who in 1947 conveyed Petworth to the National Trust; in 1957 the contents of the State Rooms were accepted by the Treasury in part payment of death duties.
Exh. Turner's gallery 1809 (8); Tate Gallery 1951 (14).
Lit. Petworth Inventories 1837, 1856 (London House); Thornbury 1862, ii, p. 397; 1877, p. 594; Armstrong 1902, p. 237; Collins Baker 1920, p. 125 no. 649; Whitley 1928, pp. 150–51; Clare 1951, pp. 42–3; Finberg 1961, pp. 156, 470–71 no. 135; Reynolds 1969, pp. 74, 106; Joll 1977, p. 375.
Exhibited with the following quotation from Gray:
Say, Father Thames, for thou hast seen
Full many a sprightly race,
Disporting on thy margin green,
The paths of pleasure trace,
Who foremost now delight to cleave
With pliant arms thy glassy wave.
In 1809 the exhibition at Turner's gallery opened on 24 April. Sir Thomas Lawrence must have been among the early visitors, as Finberg prints a letter that he wrote on 26 April to a Mr Penrice of Yarmouth, a collector who had consulted him about buying old masters:
While you are meditating on the purchase of pictures of the Old Masters, what say you to setting an example to your rich friends of patronage to living artists? I have just been at the gallery of Mr. Turner (indisputably the first landscape painter in Europe) and there seen a most beautiful picture which in my opinion would be very cheaply purchased at two hundred guineas—the price at which I understand it may be bought. The subject is ‘A scene near Windsor’, with young Etonians introduced ... If the expression can apply to landscape it is full of sentiment, and certainly of genius. If you dare hazard the experiment you must do it quickly and authorize me to secure it for you. It would give me very great pleasure, from my respect for the powers of the artist, my admiration of the work, and (may I say it on so slight an acquaintance?) my esteem for you.
The size of the picture is (by guess) about three feet in length and a little less in height. It is in his own peculiar manner, but that at its best; no Flemish finishing, but having in it fine principles of art, the essentials of beauty, and (as far as the subject admits it) even of grandeur.
I remain, Dear Sir, etc
Despite this very warm recommendation, Mr Penrice did not buy the picture. Perhaps, as Lawrence's letter seems to imply, he was more attracted to pictures which showed ‘Flemish finishing’ and would have preferred Wilkie to Turner. Whether Lord Egremont bought the picture during the exhibition or later is not known but the former seems very possible. He had bought four pictures from the previous year's exhibition and the subject was one which obviously attracted him as he was finally to own three views by Turner of Windsor Castle and its surroundings (Nos. 64 [T03871] and 149 besides this picture), as well as The Thames at Eton (No. 71 [T03873]).
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984