Joseph Mallord William Turner

View on Clapham Common


Oil paint on wood
Support: 321 x 445 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Display caption

This view was first exhibited under its present title after Turner’s death. Although there is little to link it to a specific location, a Victorian newspaper report claimed to identify the trees near Clapham Common West Side, but even then the pond had been filled in. The French old master Claude Lorrain’s idealised compositions were a major influence on Turner, particularly in his Liber Studiorum landscape prints a few years later; the screen of trees here may come partly from Claude and partly from nature. Fishing was one of Turner’s favourite pastimes, and appears in numerous paintings and watercolours.

Gallery label, February 2010

Catalogue entry

42. [N00468] View on Clapham Common c. 1800–02

Mahogany, 12 5/8 × 17 7/16 (32 × 44·5)

Coll. Turner Bequest 1856 (95, ‘Study of Trees’ 1'5" × 1'0"); transferred to the Tate Gallery 1910.

Exh. Amsterdam, Berne, Paris, Brussels, Liege (3), Venice and Rome (4), 1947–8 (repr.).

Lit. Ruskin 1857 (1903–12, xiii, pp. 103–4, 135, 142–3); Armstrong 1902, pp. 49, 220, repr. facing p. 46; MacColl 1920, p. 4; Davies 1946, p. 187; Herrmann 1963, p. 12, pl. 3; Wilton 1979, p. 256.

Apparently painted partly when already framed, a strip 5/8 in. along the bottom edge being only roughly laid in. Ruskin however attributes this to the picture's having been left unfinished.

The title and a dating of c. 1802 first appear in Ruskin's account of the Turners exhibited at Marlborough House in 1856. Much less Wilsonian than paintings of the late 1790s the painting yet lacks the freedom and atmosphere of the Thames oil sketches and watercolours of c. 1806–7 (see Nos. 160–94 and, e.g., the watercolour from the Turner Bequest, XCV-46, repr. exh. cat., B.M. 1975, p. 40 no. 34 and, in colour, Wilkinson 1974, p. 77). A closer parallel is Chevening Park painted in oil and gum on paper, one of the studies done when Turner was staying with W.F. Wells at Knockholt (No. 35g); Finberg dated these c. 1806 but for reasons for dating them c. 1801 see the introduction to Nos. 35a-f on pp. 25–7.

Published in:
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984