Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Grounds of New College, Oxford

c.1837–9

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

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 343 x 509 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D36314
Turner Bequest CCCLXV 24

Catalogue entry

Eric Shanes has identified this loose colour study as showing New College, Oxford, based on a pencil drawing in the Oxford sketchbook, in use between about 1834 and 18381 (Tate D27939; Turner Bequest CCLXXXV 29a),2 possibly as an undeveloped design for Turner’s Picturesque Views in England and Wales,3 the last engravings of which were published in 1838.
The view is west from within the college grounds, towards the Garden Quadrangle, flanked to the north by the chapel, little of which is hinted at in the very loose pencil work in the distance here. The female figures in the foreground here have approximate equivalents in the pencil study.
Colin Harrison has also dated this, along with other Oxford colour studies, to the late 1830s,4 hence the dating here. Tate D25217 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 95) shows Trinity College from its own grounds, while Tate D25218 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 96) shows St John’s College with Trinity beyond. See also the introductions to the present subsection of identified but unrealised Oxford subjects and the overall England and Wales ‘colour beginnings’ grouping to which this work has been assigned.
Maurice Davies has used the present work as an example of Turner’s placing the apparent ‘perspective centre point’ towards the left or right of a composition5 – in this case towards the right, where the edges of the path converge.
1
See Harrison 2000, p.88.
2
Shanes 1997, p.88.
3
See ibid., pp.12, 13, 26, 86, 88, 97, 100, 107.
4
Harrison 2000, p.91.
5
Davies 1992, pp.64–5.
Technical notes:
As Eric Shanes notes,1 this is one of four Oxford colour studies which are closely related physically. The present work (watermarked 1837) and Tate D25218 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 96) have matching serrations at the bottom of their respective compositions where the original super royal-format sheet was torn in half. The two were worked up on opposite faces of the overall sheet, presumably after it was halved, as there is no overlap of watercolour wash from the front of one to the back of the other. All of the above applies to Tate D25220 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 98) and Tate D25217 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 95), also originally a single sheet. Shanes observes that ‘all four drawings manifest extremely similar serrations that resulted from the two super royal sheets being torn in half simultaneously’.2 He also suggests that their ‘distinctive, shared characteristics’, along with those of a fifth Oxford study, Tate D36316 (Turner Bequest CCCLXV 26, watermarked 1837), indicate that they ‘may have been made during the same work session’.3
1
Shanes 1997, p.86.
2
Ibid.
3
Ibid.

Matthew Imms
March 2013

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