Joseph Mallord William Turner

Studies of Rustic Figures: A Group Seated at a Long Table; Three Figures; A Man Leading a Horse and a Cart with Figures Seated on a Load of Hay

c.1807–10

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

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Pen and ink on paper
Dimensions
Support: 258 x 370 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D05352
Turner Bequest LXXXVI 2

Catalogue entry

Three separate studies appear on this leaf, all connected with Turner’s unfinished painting Harvest Home (Tate N00562).1 At upper left is a study of figures at a table. This is evidently a composition study of a harvest feast which, though quickly drawn, lacks the spontaneity of other sketches in the book evidently taken from life. It may be intermediate between these and the separate composition study (Tate D08216; Turner Bequest CXX C) that Turner made for the painted version. Beneath this is the most interesting feature of this leaf, a sketch of two men and a woman carrying a small child. This group is clearly based on one in Wilkie’s picture The Village Holiday (Tate N00122), in progress (from a sketch made in August 1808) from the late summer of 1809 and exhibited in 1812.
As usual with Wilkie’s pictures, The Village Holiday was developed over many months, with interruptions and alterations, but this motif, a woman trying to drag her drunken husband away from his friends, was becoming clear from mid October 1809. In his painted Harvest Home Turner included only a faint echo of it in a group of men to right of centre, but here the connection with Wilkie is clear and cannot be coincidental. The woman on the right wearing a cap and holding a small child, and the smock worn by the central figure, her husband, are particularly close to Wilkie’s original (Wilkie’s model for the woman had been Charlotte Fletcher, sister-in-law of the portrait painter John Jackson, while the drunken man was studied from an ‘old man, Morely’).2 Turner is not recorded as having visited Wilkie’s studio while the artist was at work on The Village Holiday and had almost certainly abandoned work on his harvest picture by 1812. However, his presumed patron the Earl of Essex visited Wilkie twice, on 1 December 1809 and 2 February 1810, when he saw The Village Holiday and expressed interest in it,3 and perhaps he described this group to Turner or even made a surreptitious sketch of it. Also John Fuller, Turner’s patron from later that year, was the ‘person of very rough manners’ whose anonymous visit surprised Wilkie on 29 April.4 See entry to D08216 for further discussion.
1
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.128 no.209 (pl.208).
2
For the painting history of Wilkie’s picture see Hamish Miles in William J. Chiego, H.A.D. Miles and David Blayney Brown, Sir David Wilkie of Scotland (1785–1841), exhibition catalogue, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh 1987, pp.147–8.
3
Allan Cunningham, The Life of Sir David Wilkie, vol..I, London 1843, pp.267, 276.
4
Ibid., p.294.

David Blayney Brown
December 2009

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