Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study of a Teal Flying


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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 272 x 437 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 341

Display caption

During his visits to Farnley Hall, the Yorkshire home of his friend Walter Fawkes, Turner was drawn into the family's interest in ornithology. He contributed a group of twenty watercolour bird portraits to a series
of illustrative albums compiled for the library at Farnley. These contained documentation as well as examples
of the plumage of each species.


This study arises from a similar
interest in natural history. It is one of
a pair of studies in which Turner sought
to capture the motion of a bird as it
began or ended its flight.


Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

This watercolour depicts a teal in flight. The duck is closely observed, the feathers on the breast and back carefully depicted. A closely related study also catalogued within this section shows a teal with outspread wings (Tate D25463; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 340). These two studies are distinguished from many of Turner’s other bird studies by their depiction of a living, moving bird, John Ruskin highlighting the ‘brightness, refinement, and active energy in the drawing of the living bird’, going on to state that ‘no words are strong enough to express the admirableness of the sketch’.1 Anne Lyles has pointed out that an additional outcome of Ruskin’s enthusiastic admiration for this and similar studies by Turner is found in Ruskin’s own drawings of ducks and birds made after Turner’s lifetime, notably his Study of a Dead Wild Duck of 1867 (British Museum).2
As Lyles has noted, this watercolour is too large to have fitted into the Ornithological Collection compiled at Farnley Hall, Yorkshire (for information about this project, see the introduction to this section) that Turner contributed to.3 Stylistically and in terms of subject matter, however, this and the other drawings catalogued in this section would seem to relate to the work made for the Ornithological Collection, if only in terms of utilising a similar approach or reflecting an increased interest in natural history. It is also quite possible that this watercolour and its pair were made at Farnley, the home of Turner’s friend and patron, Walter Fawkes.4
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.274.
Ibid, p.66; British Museum accession number 1901,0516.1.
Lyles 1988, p.61.
Ibid, p.61.
Technical notes:
There is a vertical crease in the paper, beginning about two thirds of the way along from the bottom left.
Blank; inscribed in pencil ‘90’ centre right and ‘37’ near centre; stamped in black ‘CCLXIII 341’ bottom right, and with Turner Bequest monogram near centre.

Elizabeth Jacklin
September 2016

Read full Catalogue entry


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