J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Colour Studies Relating to Whitaker’s ‘The History of Richmondshire’ c.1816–20

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This section is comprised of a small group of colour studies, or ‘colour beginnings’, as termed by A.J. Finberg, the Turner Bequest’s first cataloguer, and later scholars of the Bequest. This grouping represents the first time Turner had produced a series of these ‘colour beginnings’ in relation to a print project, a process he would repeat on a larger scale when working on the later Picturesque Views in England and Wales. The sheets are landscape colour studies relating to the Revd. Thomas Dunham Whitaker’s The History of Richmondshire (published in parts between 1819 and 1823), being either studies for finished watercolours engraved for the publication, or ideas for compositions not ultimately executed. Turner’s association with Whitaker began in 1799 when he was commissioned to make drawings for The History of Whalley. The later History of Richmondshire was part of a planned but not otherwise completed seven-volume General History of ...
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D17186, D17187, D17198, D17199, D17205, D25255, D25483, D25492, D25504
Turner Bequest CXCVI V, W, CXCVII H, I, O, CCLXIII 133, 360, 369, 380
This section is comprised of a small group of colour studies, or ‘colour beginnings’, as termed by A.J. Finberg, the Turner Bequest’s first cataloguer, and later scholars of the Bequest.1 This grouping represents the first time Turner had produced a series of these ‘colour beginnings’ in relation to a print project, a process he would repeat on a larger scale when working on the later Picturesque Views in England and Wales. The sheets are landscape colour studies relating to the Revd. Thomas Dunham Whitaker’s The History of Richmondshire (published in parts between 1819 and 1823), being either studies for finished watercolours engraved for the publication, or ideas for compositions not ultimately executed. Turner’s association with Whitaker began in 1799 when he was commissioned to make drawings for The History of Whalley.2 The later History of Richmondshire was part of a planned but not otherwise completed seven-volume General History of the County of York. The demise of the plans for a History of the County of York was due in part to Whitaker’s death in 1821, and the publishers overstretching themselves (the final cost of Richmondshire alone was nearly £10,000).3
The artist and diarist Joseph Farington recorded news of Turner’s project in his diary following a dinner on 17 May 1816 that they both attended:
Turner told me that He had made an engagement to make 120 drawings views of various kinds in Yorkshire, – for a History of Yorkshire for which he was to have 3000 guineas. Many of the subjects he required, He said, He had now in His possession. He proposed to set off very soon for Yorkshire to collect other subjects.4
For a full account of the 1816 tour of Yorkshire that Turner undertook to ‘collect other subjects’ see within this publication the introduction to the tour and the individual catalogue entries by David Hill. Turner’s commission to illustrate the General History of the County of York would have been one of the most extensive print projects of his career if it had been completed, with 120 finished watercolours planned to be engraved. As it is, twenty finished watercolours were engraved, all for the published History of Richmondshire.
The selection of colour studies in the present section is based on the previous work of Turner scholars, particularly Hill and Eric Shanes. Shanes listed History of Richmondshire ‘colour beginnings’ from the TB CCLXIII Colour Beginnings section of Finberg’s catalogue in his 1997 Watercolour Explorations, naming the four relevant sheets included here and referring to other studies made in connection with the Richmondshire project in the TB CXCVI and TB CXCVII sections of Finberg’s catalogue. Hill’s extensive study of Turner’s movements in the north of England has resulted in convincing identifications of Richmondshire subjects. Five of the nine sheets included here relate directly to finished Richmondshire watercolours, their relationship to the finished series and thus dating reasonably firm, while the other four appear to function as ‘beginnings’ for works not actually realised as finished watercolours for Richmondshire.
The colour studies are characterised by loose handling and a general ‘laying in’ of the compositions in areas of broadly brushed colour on white wove paper. There is little in the way of foreground detail, but usually enough information in terms of colour and composition for the relationships between ‘colour beginnings’ and finished watercolours to be recognisable where they have been realised as finished compositions.
1
There are many discussions of the ‘colour beginnings’; for a useful introduction see Eric Shanes, ‘Beginnings’ in Joll, Butlin and Herrmann 2001, pp.21–3.
2
Warburton 1982, p.7.
3
Anne Lyles and Diane Perkins, Colour Into Line: Turner and the Art of Engraving, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1989, p.33.
4
Kathryn Cave (ed.) The Diary of Joseph Farington, vol. XIV January 1816 – December 1817, New Haven and London 1984, p.4835.

Elizabeth Jacklin
February 2015

How to cite

Elizabeth Jacklin, ‘Colour Studies Relating to Whitaker’s ‘The History of Richmondshire’ c.1816–20’, February 2015, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, November 2016, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/colour-studies-relating-to-whitakers-the-history-of-richmondshire-r1183197, accessed 20 October 2017.