After Joseph Mallord William Turner Okehampton, Devonshire 1828

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Artwork details

Artist
Title
Okehampton, Devonshire
Date 1828
Medium Etching on paper
Dimensions Image: 167 x 241 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Purchased 1986
Reference
T04532
View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Catalogue entry

[from] Picturesque Views in England and Wales pub.1827–38 [T04503-T04612; T05081-T05104; T05873; complete]

One hundred and ten etchings and line-engravings by various engravers and in various states, comprising sixty-nine subjects out of a total of ninety-six (see also T05081-T05104 below); various papers and sizes; some annotated in pencil with names of collectors
Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) 1986
Prov: ...; N.W. Lott and H.J. Gerrish Ltd, from whom bt by Tate Gallery (earlier provenance given in individual entries where known)
Lit: Andrew Wilton, Turner in the British Museum, exh. cat., British Museum 1975; Eric Shanes, Turner's Picturesque Views in England and Wales, 1979; Picturesque Views in England and Wales by J.M.W. Turner, R.A., exh. cat., N.W. Lott and H.J. Gerrish Ltd 1982; Eric Shanes, ‘New Light on the England and Wales Series’, Turner Studies, vol.4, no.1, Summer 1984, pp.52–4; Eric Shanes, Turner's England 1810–38, 1990

Picturesque Views in England and Wales was the most ambitious of the engraving projects with which Turner became associated in the 1820s and 1830s. The project was the idea of the engraver Charles Heath, who had first worked with Turner in 1811 when he engraved the figures in John Pye's translation of Turner's oil of ‘Pope's Villa at Twickenham’ (Butlin and Joll 1984, no.72). From the 1820s, however, Heath began to devote his energies to publishing: besides England and Wales, he launched a number of popular illustrated annuals and the ‘Rivers of France’, for which Turner was also engaged to make designs (see T05105-T05109 and T04678-T04726).

A recently discovered letter from Charles Heath to the Yarmouth banker and patron of the arts, Dawson Turner, dated February 1825, throws much light on the genesis of the project (see Shanes 1984, pp.52–4):

I have just begun a most splendid work from Turner the Academician. he is making me 120 Drawings of England and Wales - I have just got four and they are the finest things I ever saw they cost me 30 Gins each and I have been offered 50 Gins each by two or three different Gentlemen. The Drawings, what is very unusual they will yield a Profit as much as the Plates, they will be engraved the size of the coast work of Cookes [Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England, see T04370-T04427], any one who has seen them says it will be the best and most lucrative speculation ever executed of that description. I mean to have them engraved by all the first Artists. Messrs Hurst & Robinson are to have half the work on condition they find all the capital necessary - so that I have half the Drawings and half the Profits at no risk - I shall send you fine Proofs of course of the whole work

It is clear from this letter that Heath's original intention was to publish 120 subjects, although in the event only ninety-six appeared, published in twenty-four parts of four prints each between 1827 and 1838. Turner's fee is stated in the letter to have been 30 guineas for each drawing, which confirms the suspicion amongst recent writers that Rawlinson had exaggerated when stating that Turner received ‘sixty to seventy guineas apiece’ (Rawlinson I 1908, p.xlvii). Turner apparently received thirty proofs of each print (Alaric Watts: quoted in Shanes 1979, p.10).

According to Rawlinson (I 1908, p.xlviii), the engravers received between £80 and £100 a plate. Altogether, nineteen engravers were employed on the project, some of whom already had experience of working with Turner over the previous ten to fifteen years: Edward Goodall, John Horsburgh, William Miller, William Radclyffe and Richard Wallis had all contributed plates to the Southern Coast (see under T04370-T04427); William Raymond Smith and John Charles Varrall engraved plates for the History of Richmondshire (see under T04439-T04484); and Thomas Higham (1795–1844) executed a plate of ‘Wilton House’ in 1825 for Hoare's History of Modern Wiltshire. The remaining eleven new recruits were: James Baylis Allen (1803–76), Robert Brandard (1803 or 1805–1862), William John Cooke (1797–1865), Samuel Fisher (early to mid nineteenth century), J. Henshall (active 1820s–40s), Thomas Jeavons (born early nineteenth century, died 1867), James H. Kernot (active 1820s–40s), James C. Redaway (active 1818–57), William Tombleson (born c.1795), Charles Westwood (died 1855) and James Tibbitts Willmore (1800–63). According to Eric Shanes, the prices of the prints varied from a guinea and a half per part for proofs on India paper to fourteen shillings per part for ordinary prints (Shanes 1979, p.11). Rawlinson stated that he had been told by the publisher Henry Graves that ‘the plates were usually engraved as fast as Turner supplied the drawings, so that the date on each print always corresponds within about a year with that of the drawing’ (Rawlinson I 1908, p.117). However, Shanes has argued that this may not always have been the case (Shanes 1979, p.11). Only one watercolour for the series, ‘Saltash’, is dated, to the year 1825, and this was not engraved until 1827 (it appeared in part III) - although since it seems to have been among the first drawings made by Turner for the series, the delay which ensued before it was engraved may have been caused by the project getting off to a slow start.

The letter from Heath to Dawson Turner also indicates that Hurst and Robinson were initially intended to be co-publishers with Heath for the series, and to put up all the capital. In January 1826, however, the country suffered a severe economic downturn, and Hurst and Robinson were bankrupted in the resulting ‘crash’. The first part of England and Wales was not published until 1 March 1827 by a City firm of print-publishers, Robert Jennings & Co, who had taken over from Hurst and Robinson as co-publishers (although the financial responsibility seems still to have been shared with Heath: see Shanes 1979, p.10); Jennings also took on marketing and distribution. This was to prove but the first in a number of changes (or realignments) of publisher, with the result that Picturesque Views in England and Wales has one of the most tortuous publishing histories of any series in this period.

Jennings remained publisher until 1831, although towards the end of this period he went into partnership with William Chaplin whose name appears alongside that of Jennings on the publication line for a number of the early plates. Finding the venture a financial burden, however, early in 1831 Jennings and Chaplin sold out their share to a larger concern, the Moon, Boys and Graves Gallery of 6 Pall Mall (Shanes 1979, p.13), with Heath apparently still retaining his previous holding. In 1832 Moon, Boys and Graves had the first sixty plates (the projected first volume) bound in a single volume, with accompanying text by Hannibal Evans Lloyd (1771–1847), a philologist and translator in the Foreign Office and the author of a successful English grammar used in several German universities (Herrmann 1990, p.119). Shanes (1979, p.14) equates ‘the original advertised prices’ ‘per vol.’ listed by Rawlinson (I 1908, p.118) with the prices for the sixty prints in this 1832 first volume; these ranged from £48 for India proofs before letters on Colombier folio issued together with the etchings (or £40 without the etchings), to £24 for India proofs with letters on Imperial Quarto (or ordinary proofs of thesame for 15 guineas), to 10 guineas for Royal Quarto prints.

However, not long afterwards Sir Francis Moon found himself in financial difficulties, and split with Boys and Graves, being replaced by Hodgson. Within a few months, Hodgson and Graves quarrelled, Graves departed, and Hodgson decided to sell off his share in the project in 1835 to Longman Rees, Orme, Brown, Green and Longman (who already had a large share in Heath's other enterprises such as The Keepsake and The Rivers of France, see T05105-T05109 and T04678-T04726). It was Longmans who decided to terminate publication in 1838. That year they reissued all ninety-six plates in two volumes of forty-eight engravings each (with additional letterpress by Lloyd) and, according to Shanes, issued them at the same prices as the Moon, Boys and Graves volume which had appeared in 1832 (Shanes 1979, p.14). Heath was by now financially ruined, although he was never officially declared bankrupt (in April 1840 he sold his own set of proofs for the series at Sotheby's; these are now in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, see Herrmann 1990, p.139 and n.95). Shanes (1979, p.15) estimates that the entire project cost in the order of £14,000–18,000, figures which, if anything, are likely to be on the conservative side.

In 1839, in an attempt to recoup some of their losses, Longmans decided to sell the entire stock of prints and plates from the series, and put them up for auction at Messrs Southgate & Company in Fleet Street. Just before the sale started, Turner himself managed to purchase the stock privately at the reserve price of £3,000, much to the consternation of all the prospective purchasers. One of these was H.G. Bohn, the dealer in cheap reprints who had had his eye on the ninety-six copper plates, and to whom it is recorded that Turner triumphantly announced: ‘So, sir, you were going to buy my England and Wales, to sell cheap, I suppose - make umbrella prints of them, eh? - but I have taken care of that. No more of my plates shall be worn to shadows’ (Alaric Watts; quoted in A.J. Finberg, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, 2nd ed., 1961, p.374).

The engravings and plates for England and Wales were still in Turner's London house in Queen Anne Street when he died, and were disposed of as the Fifth Portion of the massive Chancery sales of ‘The Valuable Engravings of the Works of the Late J.M.W. Turner, R.A.’ held at Christie's in 1873 and 1874. The prints from England and Wales were sold on 27 May 1874 and 23–4 July 1874 (Herrmann 1990, p.140, mistakenly says 24 May 1874), but the plates themselves were destroyed just before the sale (Rawlinson I 1908, p.117). There were 222 lots of prints from this series alone, totalling over 52,000 engravings and including more than five hundred bound volumes; since the entire total of prints sold in the Turner sales was 76,000 (in over 1,850 lots), it is clear that the prints from England and Wales must have accounted for a considerable proportion of the £40,000 raised by the sales (see Herrmann 1990, pp.140, 248).

One of the reasons sometimes quoted for the commercial failure of the England and Wales project is the fact that copper was used (apparently on Turner's insistence) in preference to the more hard-wearing and economical steel (see Shanes 1979, p.14 and Herrmann 1990, pp.127–8), and hence that the prints were over-priced. In fact very little had been published in line on steel as early as 1824 and 1825 when the project was first conceived (except for images on a much smaller scale), so whether steel was actually considered a realistic option at this date is not know. Certainly, however, the series does seem to have suffered serious competition from a variety of similar, cheaper publications flooding the market over the same period, reproducing the work of such popular artists as Samuel Prout, Clarkson Stanfield and David Roberts (see A.J. Finberg, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, 2nd ed., 1961, p.375). Herrmann makes the perceptive point that, towards its close, England and Wales must have appeared rather old-fashioned (Herrmann 1990, p.139), whilst Rawlinson speculates that the public may have seen too many Turner prints of a topographical nature over the previous twenty years, and perhaps have wearied of the irregular appearances of his previous serial issues (Rawlinson I 1908, p.xlviii). What is fairly sure is that the series did not founder due to lack of publicity, for repeated attempts were made by the various publishers to promote the project by holding exhibitions of the watercolours (sometimes alongside the engravings) -in 1829 at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, in 1831 at the Freemasons Tavern, and in 1833 at the Gallery of Moon, Boys and Graves in Pall Mall.

Although Picturesque Views in England and Wales was not a commercial success, today the series is regarded as one of the finest and as one of the most important made from Turner's work. Andrew Wilton has described the subjects ‘as modern “history pictures” in which the common man is the hero’ (introduction to Shanes 1979), and certainly it is the relationship of man to the landscape which is the series' constant theme. Unlike previous engraved series, Turner himself selected the subjects, which fall into a wide range of categories covering almost every aspect of his work as a landscape painter - coastal subjects, urban and industrial views, English pastoral scenes, and views of cathedrals and abbeys. Many of the subjects were adapted from extant sketches or watercolours, although thirteen were based on new material gathered by him on a tour to the Midlands in 1830 undertaken especially for the project. In the variety and richness of its subject matter, and in the breadth and universality of its vision, Picturesque Views in England and Wales surpasses all the other series in which Turner had hitherto been involved. And the engravings are some of the most sophisticated and accomplished ever made after his designs.

The group of prints catalogued here comprises mainly etchings and first published states. The open etchings seem to have survived in fairly plentiful numbers, no doubt because they were issued to subscribers together with the ‘India proofs’ at little extra cost (see above). Rawlinson does not catalogue the etchings, although sometimes they appear to correspond with his engraver's proofs; nevertheless, for clarity's sake, they are given here as ‘etchings’. Rawlinson catalogues the first published states as before title, publication line and printer's name, and his system has been followed here-although it seems likely that most of the so-called ‘first published states’ listed here correspond to the ‘India proofs’ with which the etchings were originally advertised as being issued. No touched proofs are included in this group, although a number of such proofs have survived for this series (there are examples in the British Museum).

Collectors mentioned in the provenance include: Henry Harper Benedict (b.1844; Lugt 2936), a manufacturer who lived in New York and collected Old Master and modern prints; G.E. Blood (d. c.1923; Lugt Suppt 265c); George Cooke, the engraver (see under T04370-T04427); the unidentified collector William Prior, who received a number of presentation proofs from various engravers who worked on England and Wales; and Charles Stokes (1785–1853; Lugt 2758 and Suppt), antiquary, geologist, lithographer and Turner's stockbroker, who formed a celebrated collection of Liber proofs and of touched proofs of the Richmondshire and England and Wales series (see Gage 1980, p.288). For Guy Bellingham Smith, see under T04370-T04427.


T04532 Okehampton, Devonshire engr. J.T. Willmore

Etching 167 × 241 (6 9/16 × 9 1/2) on India paper laid on wove paper 397 × 549 (15 5/8 × 21 5/8); plate-mark 253 × 317 (9 15/16 × 12 1/2); watermark ‘J WHATMAN | 1828’
Engraved inscriptions: ‘Etchd. by J., T. Willmore. from a Drawing by J., M. W. Turner. R.A.’ below image at centre
Lit: Rawlinson I 1908, no.226, etching

Etched state of plate published in part V, no.2. Original watercolour: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (Shanes 1979, no.17, pl.17 in col.; Wilton 1979, no.802).

Published in:
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986-88, London 1996

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