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Turner made a number of studies of domestic birds in this book and the related Swans sketchbook (Tate D01689, D01690; Turner Bequest XLII 14, 15). Drawn with the page turned horizontally, this skein of geese may be unconnected with those studies, but they seem to show a general interest in birds and their behaviour at this moment, perhaps simply because he was provided with opportunities to study them, rather than because he was contemplating including them in any particular work.
There are studies of turkeys on folios 2 recto and 3 recto (D02244, D02245), and of a swan on folio 4 recto (D02246). Turner was to make detailed and very beautiful studies of birds later in his career, such as the watercolours of a teal in flight (Tate D25463, D25464; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 340, 341), and the album of bird drawings assembled by the Fawkes family at Farnley Hall in the late 1810s.1
See Anne Lyles, Turner and Natural History: The Farnley Project, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1988, and David Hill, Turner’s Birds, Oxford 1988.
The sheet is discoloured from exposure.
Blank; inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘867’.