Catalogue entry

204. [T03872] The Thames at Weybridge c. 1807–10

TATE GALLERY AND THE NATIONAL TRUST (LORD EGREMONT COLLECTION) PETWORTH HOUSE
Canvas, 35 × 47 (88·9 × 119·4)

Coll. Bought by the third Earl of Egremont, possibly from Turner's gallery c. 1807 but in any case he owned it by 1819 (see below); 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. Tate Gallery 1951 (2).

Engr. By W. Say in the Liber Studiorum under the title ‘Isis’ published 1 January 1819, ‘Picture in the Possession of the Earl of Egremont’ (Rawlinson 68).

Lit. Petworth Inventories 1837, 1856 (North gallery); Waagen 1854, iii, p. 39; Thornbury 1862, ii, pp. 5, 397; 1877, pp. 199, 200, 202, 594; Armstrong 1902, p. 236 (dated c. 1810); Collins Baker 1920, p. 125 no. 5; Finberg 1924, p. 271; 1961, pp. 196, 475 no. 182; Joll 1977, p. 355; Kitson 1983, p. 7.

The Liber Studiorum drawing is in the British Museum, Vaughan Bequest (CXVIII-N) where it is dated c. 1810 by Finberg. A number of drawings connected with this picture are in the ‘Studies for Pictures; Isleworth’ sketchbook (XC pp. 6, 9, 29 and 31; that on p. 29 includes a reclining figure, an idea Turner evidently later abandoned in favour of the peacock; the drawing on p. 8 verso may also be connected). In his 1909 Inventory Finberg originally dated this sketchbook 1805–6 but later corrected this to 1811–12 in his Life of J.M.W. Turner. While the presence of sketches for Mercury and Herse (No. 114) exhibited in 1811, suggests support for Finberg's second thoughts, it is now clear that the book was in use c. 1804–5; there is also a watercolour study for Windsor Castle from the Thames (see No. 149 [T03870]) which can be fairly certainly dated on stylistic grounds to c. 1805. No details of which pictures were shown at Turner's gallery in 1813 have survived so that Finberg's suggestion that this picture was included remains pure guesswork, based largely on his dating of the sketchbook already mentioned and his assumption that Turner was living at Isleworth 1811–13. Now, however, that we know (see entry for No. 149 [T03870]) that he was at this address in 1805, the brackets for dating this picture become much wider. On stylistic grounds affinities with other river scenes such as On the Brent (No. 198) and Pope's Villa at Twickenham (No. 72) support a dating of 1807–10. For instance, the painting of the flowers and foliage in the foreground in all three pictures is particularly close. As we know to a great extent the pictures shown in Turner's gallery in 1808 and all those shown in 1809 and 1810, this may even have been shown as early as 1807 and be amongst the views on the Thames which disgusted Benjamin West so much on his visit to the exhibition in that year.

It appears to be uncertain when this picture first received its present title but it is listed as such both by Waagen and in the 1856 Petworth Inventory. Edward Croft-Murray suggested that it may be a view along the river from Isleworth, with the battlemented corner of Syon House visible between the trees at the left. This seems a more likely possibility than the traditional identification but the view may be to some extent a ‘capriccio’.


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