Joseph Mallord William Turner

Richmond, Yorkshire: Colour Study


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

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 422 x 547 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XXXVI V

Display caption

Turner recorded views of Richmond in both his 1797 sketchbooks. This unfinished study is based on f.9 of the Tweed and Lakes sketchbook, which includes much more architectural detail than is readily apparent in this view. Turner has here selected a dawn effect, throwing the buildings below the castle into obscure shadows. In 1799, at the time of the elections of the Associate membership at the Royal Academy, he offered to paint a view of Richmond for Robert Smirke, himself already a member and therefore able to vote. Although Turner's application was successful, it seems he did not complete a view of Richmond and it is quite probable that this was the watercolur he was working on for Smirke.

Gallery label, October 1996

Catalogue entry

This fine study, with its effect of sunrise, is based on Tate D01012 (Turner Bequest XXXV 9) in the Tweed and Lakes sketchbook, probably, as Turner scholar Selby Whittingham has suggested, in preparation for a finished watercolour (never executed?) for Robert Smirke.1 In 1980 Turner scholar David Hill dated it to about 1815 or later, though he amended this in 1996.2 The mistake reflects the prophetic quality of Turner’s work in Yorkshire this year; a similar ambiguity hovers over a large study of York (private collection),3 which has been variously dated to c.1800 and c.1816.4 Turner treated the Richmond subject again in a colour study for the Richmondshire series in about 1820 (Tate D17198; Turner Bequest CXCVII H).
There is a pencil drawing on the verso (D40190).

Andrew Wilton
January 2013

See entry for 8 July 1799 in Kenneth Garlick and Angus Macintyre eds., The Diary of Joseph Farington, vol.IV, New Haven and London 1979, p.1250.
See Hill and others 1980, p.31, and Hill 1996, pp.40, 41.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.330 no.275, reproduced.
See also under Tate D08100 (Turner Bequest CXV 47).

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