Joseph Mallord William Turner
Vignette Study for Campbell’s ‘Poetical Works’; Preparatory Study of Two Seated Figures c.1835–6

Artwork details

Vignette Study for Campbell’s ‘Poetical Works’; Preparatory Study of Two Seated Figures
Date c.1835–6
Medium Watercolour on paper
Dimensions Support: 259 x 207 mm
Acquisition Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 74
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Catalogue entry

The subject of this hastily executed sketch appears to show two figures in dark, forested surroundings and is probably one of a group of more than thirty studies in the Turner Bequest related to Turner’s illustrations for Thomas Campbell’s Poetical Works. They are all painted on cheap, lightweight paper and executed in a rough, loose style. Although the composition is too vague to be conclusively linked to any finished watercolours, the motif of two figures in a wood may represent a preliminary sketch for O’Connor’s Child, circa 1835 (National Gallery of Scotland).1 For a more detailed discussion see Tate D27576; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 59.
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, no.1276; reproduced in colour in Mungo Campbell, A Complete Catalogue of Works by Turner in the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh 1993, p.57.
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 was inferior to standard drawing papers. Turner has used the ‘felt’ side of the sheet 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
Bower 1999, p.59.
Inscribed by an unknown hand in pencil ‘CCLXXX 75 | 74’ bottom right

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

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