Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study of a Dead Pheasant and Woodcock

c.1820

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 545 x 752 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D25482
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 359

Catalogue entry

This is one of two large unfinished studies in this section focused on a dead pheasant and woodcock (see also the entry for Tate D25481; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 358). Both studies seem to be purposeful still-life compositions as opposed to works functioning purely as natural history studies: while the other study shows the birds hanging against a gilt picture frame or mirror, this study – which is compositionally less finished – seems to show them arranged on the edge of a flat surface. Anne Lyles suggested that the studies may relate to a still-life commission from Turner’s friend and patron Walter Fawkes that was never completed, noting Fawkes’s ownership of Dutch and Flemish still life and animal paintings as possible evidence for her premise.1 The large size of the two sheets and the carefully arranged compositions would certainly seem to point towards a function beyond the colour studies themselves.
It is quite possible that this study and its pair were made at Farnley Hall, the Yorkshire home of Walter Fawkes, as suggested by Lyles.2 Turner had made other bird studies at Farnley, for the Ornithological Collection (for information about this project see the introduction to this grouping), and participated in shooting parties at the house; he would certainly have had the opportunity to study dead game birds there.3
1
Lyles 1988, p.61.
2
Lyles 1988, p.61.
3
Wilton 1979, p.373.
Verso:
Blank; inscribed in pencil ‘[?55]’ bottom right.

Elizabeth Jacklin
September 2016

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