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

Joseph Mallord William Turner Trees by the River Thames: Bridge in the Distance 1805

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Trees by the River Thames: Bridge in the Distance 1805
D05950
Turner Bequest XCV 46
Pencil and watercolour on white wove paper, 257 x 368 mm
Stamped in black ‘XCV 46’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This is a right-hand page from the sketchbook. Finberg notes that when exhibited at the National Gallery the subject was ‘probably erroneously’ described as Cowley, near Crediton, Devon. Gage compares this ‘very exceptional watercolour of a frieze of trees and a bridge’ to an oil sketch Trees beside the River, with Bridge in the Middle Distance (Tate N02692)1 while Butlin and Joll compare it to another oil sketch (Tate N05519)2 with a tentative identification as Kew Bridge. Hill illustrates it as Richmond, and from the Middlesex bank, but this too seems doubtful.
With quick brushwork and informal, unstructured design this watercolour has been widely seen as representing Turner’s most naturalistic, spontaneous treatment of Thames scenery while living at Isleworth. Wilton, on the other hand, argues for ‘a sophistication of purpose that goes rather further than that of a direct plein-air sketch’ and notes the similarity of the wooded setting to others that Turner used for classical and literary subjects.3
1
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.118 no.169 (pl.169).
2
Ibid., p.117 no.165 (pl.165).
3
Wilton in Wilton and Mallord Turner 1990, p.122.
Verso:
Blank, save for traces of blue watercolour.

David Blayney Brown
February 2009

How to cite

David Blayney Brown, ‘Trees by the River Thames: Bridge in the Distance 1805 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, February 2009, 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-trees-by-the-river-thames-bridge-in-the-distance-r1129981, accessed 30 August 2014.