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This ‘colour beginning’ shares its bright colours with Tate D17177 (Turner Bequest CXCVI M), a study, which David Hill has dated to about 1816, observing that ‘the use of brilliant red, blue, green and yellow ... is not much in evidence ... before this date.’ 1 That study relates to the watercolour Farnley Hall from Otley Chevin, of about 1816 or a little later;2 with its foreground of goats perched among conifers and rocks, it has ‘something of an Alpine appearance’,3 and has been described as a compositional pendant4 to the slightly larger watercolour of about the same period, Valley of the Wharfe from Caley Park (currently untraced),5 showing deer in a similar setting. The present work in turn relates to the latter design.
Andrew Wilton recognised the connection with one of Turner’s pencil sketches (Tate D12108; Turner Bequest CLIV J), which he described as ‘presumably made in about 1817’, while dating this sheet to as late as about 1828, on account of the ‘light tonality and palette of pure red, yellow and blue’;6 Eric Shanes has since placed it somewhat earlier, at about 1819.7 In the present catalogue, David Hill dates the pencil drawing to between 1808 and 1816, and described the view ‘from near Caley Crags at the east end of Otley Chevin, looking west up Wharfedale to the Cow and Calf Rocks above Ilkley in the centre distance, with Denton Hall indicated in the right distance. The town of Otley occupies the valley floor below to the right’. The viewpoint is south-south-east of Farnley Hall, on the opposite side of the river. Hill notes that Tate D12109 (Turner Bequest CLIV F), which he dates more specifically to about 1809, shows much the same prospect. With its more prominent rocks on the left, it is closest to the finished watercolour.
In the present case the rocks are somewhat less emphatic and the prospect thus more open, as in D12108. As such, with little or no under-drawing, it appears to represent an intermediate exercise in establishing both the composition and the glowing contre-jour effect. Compared to the almost prismatic effect here, the completed work is somewhat more conventional in the colouring of its sky, with the sun higher and further to the right, albeit still emitting rays and glowing strongly. In this it recalls Claude Lorrain (1604/5–1682); so admired and emulated by Turner, he often include the sun low over water and architecture.8 Compare for example Turner’s painting The Decline of the Carthaginian Empire, exhibited in 1817 (Tate N00499).9
David Hill in Hill, Stanley Warburton, Mary Tussey and others, Turner in Yorkshire, exhibition catalogue, York City Art Gallery 1980, pp.36–7.
Hill 2008, p.73, ill.62 (colour); Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.371 no.613, as ‘Farnley Hall, from above Otley’, c.1815; see also Finberg 1909, I, p.600, as ‘Wharfedale, from the Chevin’, and Hill 1980, p.36 no.41, as ‘Wharfedale with Farnley Hall, from the West Chevin’, c.1818’
Hill 1980, p.36 no.41.
Wilton 1979, p.371 no.617, reproduced, as c.1815; Hill 1980, p.37 no.44, as ‘The Valley of the Wharfe, with Otley, from Caley Park’, c.1818.
Wilton 1974, pp.97–8; Wilton 1976, p.141.
Shanes 1997, p.103.
See Ian Warrell and others, Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery, London 2012.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.100–01 no.135, pl.137 (colour).