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Technique and condition
This is a watercolour and pencil sketch on white wove Whatman paper, neatly torn down from a larger sheet of paper, with the edges left untrimmed. The distant hills and some features such as trees were suggested very sketchily with graphite pencil, and were then painted with single washes of watercolour applied with more forethought, since they were left unmodified by later washes. At the right edge there are trial paint-outs, or a spillage of full-strength washes of red lake. Here this may be the red lake which he used more diluted to create the pink and blue colour contrasts in the foreground, where he painted freely to create its form. The white and some of the purely pale pink areas in this composition have been stopped-out, possibly using a wash of pure gum water, and then the diluted red lake was applied at a later stage; hard edges are visible where the wet paint has come into contact with the resist.
Stopping-out was used to depict areas such as the water. If the stopping-out was done with pure gum water, then it would not have been possible to apply successive washes on top without softening and blending these areas: such a technique is only suitable for a sketchy idea not taken to a detailed state of finish – as was the case here – or else to a rigorously pre-planned image which would not require second thoughts or elaboration. These are all single washes, juxtaposed in an early exercise in colour contrast, which suggests that this was an experimental sketch not intended to be worked up in detail.
This is based on a pencil sketch in the 1798 North Wales sketchbook (Tate D01372; Turner Bequest XXXIX 17); a related study, in the unusual medium of black chalk and stump, is Tate D03422 (Turner Bequest LVIII 43), catalogued by Finberg among the ‘Scottish Pencils’.1 The present tentative identification of the view is due to the artist John Doyle.2 It was shown in the 1984 Turner in Wales exhibition under the title ‘View towards Snowdon from above Traeth Bach, with Moel Hebog and Aberglaslyn (?)’.
The unfinished condition of this study renders it especially valuable in demonstrating Turner’s methods of work at this important juncture in his technical development. In its bold use of superimposed washes of transparent colour, articulated by areas of stopping out, it can be compared with the large study of (Tate D04166; Turner Bequest LXX O).
Sheet torn and dirty