Joseph Mallord William Turner Vignette Study; ?for Campbell’s ‘Poetical Works’ c.1835–6

Artwork details

Artist
Title
Vignette Study; ?for Campbell’s ‘Poetical Works’
Date c.1835–6
Medium Watercolour on paper
Dimensions Support: 181 x 227 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D27571
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 54
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Catalogue entry

This work is one of a group of more than thirty watercolour studies in the Turner Bequest that appear to be preparatory sketches for Campbell’s Poetical Works. They are all painted on cheap, lightweight paper and executed in a rough, loose style. The subject is unidentified and is too vague to be conclusively linked to any of Turner’s finished Campbell illustrations.
The study can also be linked to another sketch (see Tate D27583; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 66), tentatively identified by David Blayney Brown as preliminary design for A Tempest (Tate D27719; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 202), a vignette illustration which Turner designed for Rogers’s Poems (1834). This watercolour shares the same palette and painting style and it is therefore possible that it is related.
The work was once part of a parcel of studies described by John Ruskin as ‘A.B. 40. PO. Vignette beginnings, once on a roll. Worthless’.1 For an explanation of his meaning of ‘once on a roll’ see the technical notes above. Finberg records how Ruskin later described his phrasing in a letter to Ralph Nicholson Wornum as ‘horrible’, adding ‘I never meant it to be permanent’.2
1
Finberg 1909, vol.II, p.894.
2
Ibid., vol.I, p.xi.
Technical notes:
Peter Bower has noted that this study is made on off-white low-grade machine-made cartridge paper. The maker is unknown and there is no watermark. This paper would have been relatively cheap to buy and could have been purchased from a colourman, cut off from a roll to the desired size. Turner has used the ‘felt’ side of the paper which has slightly more texture than the ‘wire’ side, allowing better adhesion of pigment and graphite to the surface of the sheet. Many of Turner’s vignette studies were made on a similar grade of machine-made paper, and the artist employed the ‘felt’ side on all of them.1
1
Bower 1999, p.59.
Verso:
Inscribed by unknown hands in pencil ‘AB 40 P | O’ top left, inverted and ‘D27571’ bottom right

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

About this artwork