Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Strid, Bolton Woods

?1808

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Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 449 x 587 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D12119
Turner Bequest CLIV U

Catalogue entry

This is one of ten large pencil drawings including D12110, D12111, D12113, D12115, D12116, D12117, D12118, D12120 and D12121 (Turner Bequest CLIV L, M, N, Q, R, S, T, V, W), that form a coherent group of views in the Wharfe and Washburn Valleys near Farnley Hall, the Yorkshire home of Turner’s patron Walter Fawkes, and record a tour up the River Wharfe from Farnley to Bolton Abbey. Several formed the bases of finished watercolours, some of which are dateable to 1809. The present writer has dubbed the group the ‘Wharfedale and Washburn’ sketchbook, and although the drawings do not actually form a sketchbook, they nevertheless appear to represent a single campaign, probably in the summer of 1808 on Turner’s first visit to Farnley. It is remarkable that Turner chose to sketch in pencil on such large sheets as these, and it is not at all clear what purpose the large scale was supposed to serve. They must have been problematic to handle in the open air, and we must presume that weather conditions were benign to have made it at all feasible to work with them.
The present sketch shows ‘The Strid’ a well-known narrowing of the Wharfe between Bolton Abbey and Barden Tower. The sketch formed the basis of a studio watercolour, The Strid, Bolton Abbey (private collection).1 The site is infamous as the site of the demise of William de Romille who habitually leapt across on his hunting expeditions, but one day was dragged into the river by his dog baulking as his master was mid-leap. The misadventure was related by Samuel Rogers in his poem The Boy of Egremond which Turner later illustrated with a vignette watercolour of the site (Tate D27695, Turner Bequest CCLXXX 178).

David Hill
July 2009

1
Wilton 1979, p.360 no.530.

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