Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Top of the Tower of Fountains Abbey, Looking South to How Hill Tower

1816

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

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 97 x 154 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D10936
Turner Bequest CXLIV 37

Catalogue entry

Here Turner records the view over the tower of Fountains Abbey as seen from the fields above the abbey to the north, looking south. How Hill Tower, shown in the right centre distance, was built by John Aislabie c.1718–23 out of the remains of a medieval chapel, as an eye-catcher for his gardens at Studley Park. Turner’s viewpoint is somewhat off the beaten track for the time since access to Fountains was generally along the Skell Valley.1 The drawing is clear testimony to Turner’s thoroughness and his drive to find a new approach to a subject, but despite that it is also noteworthy that his observation here is rather careless. The proportions of the tower are far too narrow, the window too large and even How Hill Tower is not accurately characterised.
On this visit to Fountains Abbey, Turner’s treatments of the abbey itself here and in the Yorkshire 3 sketchbook (in the present book, this drawing, and another on a following double-page spread, folios 38a–9, D10939–D10940) are extremely cursory, preferring instead to concentrate on Fountains Hall. Turner did, however, make a careful study of the abbey in the Devonshire Rivers, No.3, and Wharfedale sketchbook (for example Tate D09864; Turner Bequest CXXXIV 63), and it may be that he took that sketchbook with him on the same visit in 1816.

David Hill
January 2009

1
Since the opening of the National Trust visitor centre in 1992, it constitutes the main approach.

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