View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
Hill suggests that this was Turner’s first sketch in the sketchbook, which ‘seems to have been new and unused when he took it out at Walton’.1 Among the various drawings in the book made nearby, this is one of several associated with Walton Bridges perhaps exhibited at Turner’s Gallery in 1806 and certainly bought by Sir John Leicester in 1807 (the Loyd Collection);2 the others are folios 6 and possibly 7, 7 verso and 8 (D05853, D05855–D05857). Here, from a position upstream of the bridge on the north bank near the old ford, Turner has sketched the view looking down-river and the rudiments of the composition with its mixture of pastoral and commercial activity; cattle in front of the bridge at the left, a barge on the Thames in the middle distance and horses being watered on the right. As Hill notes, brief indications of shade show that the sun was in the north-west, to the left, and that the sketch was made in the evening.
Turner probably had the sketchbook by him when the picture was on his easel as there are oil or varnish splashes on the adjacent folio 3 verso (see under D05848). The drawings for the picture in the book dovetail with variant composition studies or outlines from the former Thames from Reading to Walton sketchbook (Tate D05926, D05927; Turner Bequest XCV 22, 23). Turner used folio 5 verso (D05852) for his up-river Walton Bridges possibly in his Gallery in 1807 and bought by the Earl of Essex that year (National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne).3 The sketches for the two pictures, indicating evening and mid-day light, suggest that he thought of them as a contrasting pair; Hill thinks that Turner used Walton as a ‘regular overnight mooring’ on his boat trips along the Thames.4