Joseph Mallord William Turner

Valle Crucis Abbey, with Dinas Brân

1794–5

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

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 460 x 375 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D00703
Turner Bequest XXVIII R

Technique and condition

In this composition on white wove Whatman paper most of the colours have been applied directly to the paper without the aid of an under-drawing, although the figure and the pigs were lightly sketched in graphite pencil at an early stage. This allowed reserves of white paper to be preserved to act later as lights in these areas. The paint was applied to very wet paper in the sky area, though further down it was applied to drier paper to give harder edges to the composition. This is a dark image utilising multiple dense washes for the middle ground, but fewer and thinner washes in the foreground, to create quite intense light/dark contrasts with a fairly limited palette of colours and some washing out for highlights.
Pigments used include: indigo, a brownish red madder lake, Mars orange, yellow ochre, mars orange is a synthetic ochre colour in a brilliant orange shade, used very extensively by Turner throughout his life, in both watercolour and oil medium.

Helen Evans
October 2008

Revised by Joyce Townsend
May 2011

Catalogue entry

This is evidently based on a study made on the tour of 1794, though no drawing for this view is known. See however Tate D00334, D00335 and D00336 (Turner Bequest XXI H 1 and 2, XXI I) for studies made at Valle Crucis and showing Dinas Brân. This exceptionally ambitious watercolour, notable for the subtlety and density of its tone and for its bold composition, seems never to have been exhibited by Turner, unless he displayed it in his father’s shop. A technically similar work, the view of Llangollen from the East (Tate D00861; Turner Bequest XXXII E) was mounted by Turner with a washline border, and was evidently intended for display; and see the Old Woman in a Cottage Kitchen (Tate D00729; Turner Bequest XXIX X), which has the remains of a grey mount and which was almost certainly shown at the Academy in 1795.
After Turner’s death the view of Valle Crucis was ignored until the late twentieth century; its dirty condition may have discouraged Ruskin and others from selecting it for the National Gallery displays or for the Loan Collections. The bold compositional device of dividing the sheet horizontally into areas of contrasting dark and light tonality was taken up again for the treatment of an urban subject in the view of the Cathedral Church at Lincoln that Turner exhibited in 1795 (British Museum, London, 1878–12–28–48),1 based on Tate D00342 (Turner Bequest XXI O).
1
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.313 no.124, pl.22 (colour).
Technical notes:
The sheet is badly rubbed and damaged.
Verso:
Blank; laid down on tissue paper.

Andrew Wilton
April 2012

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