Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study of the Sky over the Roman Campagna


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

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 229 x 368 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 55

Catalogue entry

There are no distinguishing geographical features to help identify the location of this coloured sketch of open countryside. However, the format of empty landscape and wide expanse of sky, as well as the focus on atmospheric and naturalistic effects, has close similarities with other coloured compositions of the River Tiber and the Roman Campagna in the Naples: Rome C. Studies sketchbook (see Tate D16122–D16123, D16129–D16131, D16133; Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 34–5, 41–43, 45) and the Small Roman C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16469 and D16482; Turner Bequest CXC 64 and 65). A second related study can be also found within this sketchbook, on folio 56 (D16387).
Like many drawings within this sketchbook, the composition has been executed over a washed grey background, although in this instance the artist has also worked up the design with further washes of watercolour and gouache applied in loose wet sweeps across the page. The subtle infusion of white and yellow light within a grey and blue sky led Finberg to title the study as Evening on the Campagna, although the colouring could equally represent an early morning scene. There is no evidence of under drawing and despite the naturalistic character of the watercolour it is likely that Turner painted it from memory or imagination. Butlin and Joll have drawn comparison between this study and an undated lay-in for a landscape or seascape composition in oil (see Tate, N05523).1

Nicola Moorby
October 2009

Butlin and Joll 1984, p.158 under no.257.

Read full Catalogue entry

You might like