64. [T03871] The Thames near Windsor Exh. 1807?
TATE GALLERY AND THE NATIONAL TRUST (LORD EGREMONT COLLECTION) PETWORTH HOUSE
Canvas, 35 × 47 (89 × 119·4)
Coll. Bought by Lord Egremont, possibly in 1807; 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. ?Turner's gallery 1807; Tate Gallery 1951 (4).
Lit. Petworth Inventories 1837, 1856 (North Gallery); Burnet and Cunningham 1852, p. 44?; Waagen 1854, iii, p. 38; Thornbury 1862, ii, p. 379; 1877, pp. 199, 200, 594; Collins Baker 1920, p. 123 no. 21; Finberg 1961, pp. 134, 467 no. 105; Reynolds 1969, p. 74; Joll 1977, p. 375; Ziff 1980, p. 168.
This is one of the pictures which Finberg suggests were shown at Turner's gallery in 1807 on the strength of West's report to Farington that the pictures he saw there were ‘views on the Thames, crude blotches, nothing could be more vicious’. The evidence is only circumstantial although the fact that pictures of Thames scenery had been exhibited by Turner previously is confirmed by John Landseer's (?) review of the 1808 exhibition (Review of Publication of Arts) in which he says ‘The greater number of the pictures at present exhibited are views on the Thames, whose course Mr. Turner has now studiously followed... almost from its source to where it mingles its waters with those of the German Ocean, including the pictures of Thames scenery which Mr. Turner has formerly exhibited.’
In any case, a dating of c. 1807 would seem perfectly acceptable on stylistic grounds although it is difficult to be certain about this in view of the picture's present condition. The paint has certainly darkened with time and the surface has suffered maltreatment from a past relining. The left-hand lower corner in the area of the two boats has suffered particularly but the water is also restored in a number of areas. Waagen noted that the picture ‘breathes a soft melancholy, and gives an effect which may be classed between Claude and Van der Neer’. Much of this atmospheric effect has now sadly disappeared.
There is a preparatory drawing for the composition, as Ziff has noted, on p. 30 of the ‘Hesperides (1)’ sketchbook (XCIII).
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984