Joseph Mallord William Turner

Three Figures


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

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 75 x 117 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXIII 4 a

Catalogue entry

Of three rapidly sketched figures, the one on the left is a standing woman, stooping towards a kneeling woman, both seen from the back and perhaps engaged in some joint task. The figure to their right towards the centre of the page is less clear, but appears to be a seated man leaning forwards. Whether he is the butcher mentioned in the inscription below is uncertain.
Each faint line of about half a dozen words at the top left appears to end in ‘ll’ (the last word on the second line perhaps being ‘dwell’) and they may form a couplet of poetry. For Turner’s extensive drafts of verse on later pages, see the introduction to the sketchbook.
Written with the book turned vertically, the measurements in inches occupying the right-hand half of the page, particularly those underlined, are ‘presumably paper or frame dimensions’,1 in the region of the sizes of the Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England watercolours and engravings resulting from Turner’s 1811 West Country expedition (see the introduction to the tour). They may have been noted down to bear in mind prior to setting out, along with the annotated list of subjects on folio 5 recto opposite (D08370). There is a similar series of dimensions on folio 251 verso (D08803; CXXIII 248a).
Hanley 1992, p.2.
Technical notes:
There is some ink offsetting towards the foot, from cancellation marks on the opposite page.

Matthew Imms
June 2011

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