Catalogue entry

99. [T03878] Tabley, Cheshire, the Seat of Sir J.F. Leicester, Bart.: Calm Morning Exh. 1809

TATE GALLERY AND THE NATIONAL TRUST (LORD EGREMONT COLLECTION) PETWORTH HOUSE
Canvas, 36 × 46 (91·5 × 116·8)
Signed ‘J M W Turner R A’ bottom right

Coll. Painted for Sir John Leicester, later Lord de Tabley, together with No. 98, in 1808; sale, conducted by Christie's in Lord de Tabley's house in London, 24 Hill Street, 7 July 1827 (34) bought by the third Earl of Egremont; by descent to the third Lord Leconfield who in 1947 conveyed Petworth to the National Trust; in 1957 the contents of the State Rooms were accepted by the Treasury in part payment of death duties.

Exh. R.A. 1809 (146); Liverpool Academy 1811 (9, this may refer to the companion picture); Sir John Leicester's gallery 1819 (43); Tate Gallery 1951 (3); Agnew English Pictures from National Trust Houses 1965 (31); R.A. 1968–9 (154); R.A. 1974–5 (151).

Lit. Farington Diary 11 February, 30 April, 2 August 1809; Carey 1819 (42); Young 1821 (43, engr.); Petworth Inventories 1837, 1856 (North Gallery); Waagen 1854, iii, p. 37; Burnet and Cunningham 1852, p. 44, 112 no. 93; Thornbury 1862, ii, p. 397; 1877, pp. 164, 199, 571, 594; Bell 1901, p. 87 no. 115; Armstrong 1902, pp. 60, 232; Collins Baker 1920, p. 123 no. 8; Whitley 1930, p. 135; Finberg 1961, pp. 151, 158–9, 302, 472 no. 146, 478 no. 206, 513 no. 169a?; Hall 1960–62, p. 120 no. 96; Reynolds 1969, pp. 67, 68, 96; Herrmann 1975, p. 19; Joll 1977, pp. 375, 376; Gage 1980, p. 264.

For the circumstances connected with the painting of this picture and its companion, for related drawings and for the critics' opinion of them when shown at the R.A., see the entry for No. 98. For an oil sketch for this picture, probably sent by Turner to Sir John Leicester to gain his approval of the viewpoint, see No. 208 [D06848].

Finberg states that the picture fetched more at the de Tabley sale (165 guineas) than Sir John Leicester had paid for it, which seems to contradict Farington's report that Callcott had told him that the Tabley views were ‘of Turner's 250 guineas size’. It seems probable, however, that Turner charged a reduced price, perhaps 300 guineas for the pair, as it was his custom to charge less for pictures painted on commission (see note to companion picture about Turner's prices and also entry for No. 403).

It seems likely that Turner and Lord Egremont met at the de Tabley sale as they both bought pictures there, and that this led to a renewal of their friendship which seems to have lapsed since 1814 (see the entry for No. 128 for a possible explanation). At any rate, Turner was invited to stay at Petworth the following month, August 1827, a visit which probably led to the commission to paint the four pictures for the dining room (Nos. 288–91 [T03883-T03886]).

Sir Francis Bourgeois, the artist, told Farington that Turner's views of Tabley were ‘gaudy but not brilliant’. At the R.A. this picture received a separate notice in the Morning Herald for 4 May: ‘In this felicitous imitation of a calm morning, the Artist has evidently taken Cuyp for his study; and it is but just to aver, that he has preserved the aerial perspective better than any other Artist within our remembrance, at least in this country. There is such repose in the whole composition, each part harmonizes with its adjunct object so happily, that a troubled spirit might dwell upon this picture in contemplation, until the nervous system were re-attuned by quietude, receiving an imperceptible anodyne through the operations of sympathy.’

Besides reminiscences of Cuyp (which make this picture a precursor of the Dort, No. 137) the pale tonality also perhaps reflects the influence of Turner's friend and follower Callcott, a number of whose pictures were bought by Sir John Leicester.

Reunited at the Turner Bicentenary exhibition, it was easy to see why this superb pair brought Turner further commissions of the same kind from Lord Egremont and Lord Lonsdale in the following year (see Nos. 108 and 113 [T03880], and 111 and 112). In fact Turner was also to receive commissions of a somewhat similar nature much later in his career when he painted the two views of Mr Moffatt's house at Mortlake terrace (Nos. 235 and 239, exhibited in 1826 and 1827) and in the following year, 1828, when he exhibited the two pictures of East Cowes Castle painted for John Nash (Nos. 242 and 243).


Published in:
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984