This composition was produced using pencil, penned ink, watercolour and ink washes. The paper is very heavily sized; evidence of this can be seen in the ink lettering where the pen has scratched through the layer of size. Bower suggests that the sheet may have been re-sized by Turner before he used it. If this is the case it would be the earliest example of Turner preparing a paper before working on it. Most early wove papers were produced for printing and therefore tended to have a soft-sized (lightly sized) surface. Papers specifically for drawing and watercolours were not yet being made by English makers.1
This image has been created on white paper using pencil outlines and washes of single colours applied to slightly damp paper. This creates a softened outline to the pale clouds depicted against a very pale blue sky. Curling outlines in ink have been added for the trees and then green paint has been applied over them. This technique is crude in comparison to Turner’s later works. Pigments used include: mixed greens, grey/black, red and a fine-grained blue pigment such as indigo. The most distant landscape would conventionally have been rendered more blue than the foreground, but here the degree of blueness is likely to be due to fading of yellow out of the paint mixtures as well.
The washline border round the work is a conventional means of presenting a finished watercolour, though it is more usual to apply the wash to a separate window mount that sits on top of the watercolour. Here, the pale grey tone of the sky dominates the washed lines.
How to cite
Helen Evans, 'Technique and Condition', October 2008, revised by Joyce Townsend, January 2011, in Andrew Wilton, ‘Oxford from the South-West ?1787–8 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, April 2012, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-oxford-from-the-south-west-r1140095, accessed 22 July 2014.