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Technique and condition
This watercolour has been painted on a very white wove paper. The pale blue indigo washes for the sky were applied to very wet paper, so they have dried with very soft edges. The unpainted areas then read as hazy white clouds. Some of the more yellow bushes on either side of the river were probably applied early, also to wet paper. The darker vegetation and trees, painted in mixed greens made from blue, brown earth pigments and Mars red (a manufactured earth pigment in a brighter shade than the natural ones), were applied as the paper was drying, while the building seen in silhouette was applied to well-dried paper. This gives the wash a harder edge, and makes the building stand out more in spite of its colour being muted by distance, as though through a hazy atmosphere. The hazy atmosphere is not even painted: the diminishing scale of the bushes and the narrowing of the river convey the considerable distance that might be expected to appear hazy.
The highlights in the foreground bushes were scraped out with a small pointed tool or even a sharp fingernail, after the paint was dry, and before then Turner had worked at the paint using his fingers. Two local applications of the intensely coloured blue pigment Prussian blue followed by some smearing with the fingers, and a wash of plain water followed by a thin wash of red lake, gave immediate form and movement to the large area of blank paper reserved for the river. The grey tones were made by mixing red, black and blue. The blue is indigo in these more muted mixtures. There are many shades of green in this landscape, and Turner used intensely coloured Indian yellow and a green lake pigment to increase their tonal range.
This is a right-hand page from the sketchbook. The subject has not been firmly located but, in Hill’s opinion, might be near Isleworth and the same as depicted in Turner’s oil sketch House beside the River, with Trees and Sheep (Tate N02694)1 which he does not otherwise identify.2 Butlin and Joll cite the suggestion of Christopher Pinsent (letter, 2 March 1970) that the latter is a view of St Catherine’s Ferry on the River Wey, but this is unconfirmed. If the buildings are the same, the house appears here in profile, silhouetted against a luminous sky, which makes it appear rather grander, but it has a bay window that might match the one in the oil.
Slight pencil sketch of trees. Inscribed in pencil by John Ruskin ‘ Out of schedule 160. JR.’