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

Joseph Mallord William Turner Windsor Castle from the Thames c.1807-19

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Windsor Castle from the Thames circa 1807–19
Turner Bequest CXVIII e (formerly apparently duplicated as CXVI F)
Pencil and watercolour on off-white wove drawing paper, 222 x 295 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The present drawing has traditionally been categorised as an unengraved design for the Liber Studiorum, and is based on Turner’s oil painting Windsor Castle from the Thames, circa 1805, which entered Lord Egremont’s collection at an undetermined but probably early date (Tate T03870, displayed at Petworth House, West Sussex).1 Other Liber studies (Tate D08114, D08168; Turner Bequest CXVI M, Vaughan Bequest CXVIII N) relate to Turner’s paintings in Egremont’s collection; as do the unpublished prints Narcissus and Echo,2 for which no drawing is known, and (at one remove, from Turner’s painting based on Egremont’s Claude) Apullia in Search of Appullus.3
Turner had made many studies of Windsor during his time living down the Thames at Isleworth in 1805,4 and appended the place-name to his signature on the painting. There are ‘one or two minor architectural peculiarities’ as compared with the latter, with a flagpole now visible on the turret and the Round Tower above the trees to the right.5 Turner may have been working from memory, but probably had recourse to the watercolour study in his Studies for Pictures: Isleworth sketchbook (Tate D05532; Turner Bequest XC 29 a) which he followed in most points in the oil. As compared to them both, the composition here been compressed by about a third, with the sheep, figures and quay all translated to the left in the ‘foresquare planar structure’,6 the boats beyond them omitted, and with individual elements looming larger; there are similar adaptations in other Liber drawings at one remove from existing compositions, for instance the composition known as Ships in a Breeze (for drawing see Tate D08114; Turner Bequest CXVI M). The painting has been described in Liber terminology as ‘one of the most “epic” of Turner’s pastorals’, with the shepherdess ‘more like a ballerina’.7
The composition is possibly recorded, as ‘ditto [Egremonts] Thames’, at the end of a list of published and unpublished ‘EP’ subjects in the Liber Notes (2) sketchbook (Tate D12163; Turner Bequest CLIV (a) 27);8 these notes (D12160–D12171; CLIV (a) 25a–31) were apparently made between 1808 and as late as 1818.9 Gillian Forrester also gives an alternative – as suggested by Finberg10The Thames at Eton, exhibited at Turner’s gallery in 1808 and also in Lord Egremont’s collection (Tate T03873, displayed at Petworth House, West Sussex),11 though no Liber-type drawing relating to the latter is known.12
Forrester discusses this design in the context of the unpublished Liber plate known as Windsor Castle from Salt Hill (for drawing, see Tate D08171; Vaughan Bequest CXVIII Q), suggesting that they are ‘related’ and thus of similar dates.13 The Salt Hill view can be directly linked to Turner’s June 1818 excursion to Eton, but this riverside composition could well have been made in the early stages of the Liber project, as Wilton’s tentative dating of about 1809 implies.14 Turner may have rejected it before 1818 or, stimulated by his later visit, have made the Salt Hill design with the riverside composition in mind, as potential pendants in the two categories, respectively Pastoral and ‘EP’ (probably ‘Elevated Pastoral’ – see general Liber introduction).15 In the absence of specific evidence, the span of the Liber Studiorum’s active publication, 1807–19, is suggested here as a date range (as it is for various other unpublished designs).
The present work is one of five unfinished compositions which were grouped at the end of the 1911 Miniature Edition of reproductions of the Liber, as suggestions (probably by W.G. Rawlinson, who gave ‘generous help and advice all through’16) for a ‘no.101??’ to bring the series up to the frontispiece plus a full twenty parts, each comprising five engravings. The others are Tate D08101, D08186, D08187 and D40045 (Turner Bequest CXV 48, CXVIII f, g, h).
In his 1909 Turner Bequest Inventory, Finberg appears to have listed the work twice, as CXVI F: ‘Sheepwashing at Eton. About 8 x 10 3/4. Drawing not engraved. Oxford, 96–169.’;17 and as CXVIII e: ‘About 8 x 10 1/2. Exhibited Drawings, No. 512, N.G.’18 CXVI F has since been noted as missing, but when the present work was reproduced in 1911 it was specified as ‘F on [Finberg 1909] page 316’;19 in 1951, it was again listed as ‘CXVI, F’ in relation to Windsor Castle from the Thames.20 Thus (as occasionally elsewhere in the Inventory due to the convoluted display histories of works transferred between London venues and the loan collections in Oxford and other British venues) one of the entries appears redundant, and the sheet is currently inventoried as CXVIII e.
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.113 no.149, pl.156 (colour).
W[illiam] G[eorge] Rawlinson, Turner’s Liber Studiorum, A Description and a Catalogue, London 1878, p.168 no.90; ... Second Edition, Revised Throughout, London 1906, pp.195 no.90; Alexander J. Finberg, The History of Turner’s Liber Studiorum with a New Catalogue Raisonné, London 1924, pp.359–61 no.90.
Ibid.: 1878, pp.144–5 no.72; 1906, pp.169–70 no.72; 1924, pp.287–90 no.72.
See David Hill, Turner on the Thames: River Journeys in the Year 1805, New Haven and London 1993, pp.63–75.
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.113.
Andrew Wilton, in Wilton and Turner 1990, p.138.
Hill 1993, pp.132, 133.
Finberg 1909, I, p.442 (transcribed); Finberg 1924, p.xxxix (transcribed); Forrester 1996, p.162 (transcribed).
Forrester 1996, pp.161–3 (transcribed).
Finberg 1924, p.xxxix.
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.55 no.71, pl.81.
Forrester 1996, pp.136–7, 162.
Ibid., p.136.
Wilton and Turner 1990, p.138.
Forrester 1996, p.137 and note 10.
Miniature Edition, 1911, p.[3].
Finberg 1909, I, p.316.
Ibid., p.324.
Miniature Edition, 1911, pp.[3–4], reproduced p.125 no.101?? [sic].
Rothenstein 1951, p.[2].
Technical notes:
The sheet is not watermarked, but its batch has been identified as ‘J Whatman | 1801’.1 Initial pencil outlines for the figures, sheep and sails were not followed closely by brushstrokes. Washes were followed by a cursory application of brushstrokes; the washes were applied very wet, with some lights left unpainted rather than deliberately reserved. There is no scratching-out. Accidental blobs of the same pigment were left among the sheep. The overall very warm brown colour results from the presence of an Indian red pigment.2 There is a pencil border round the edges of the composition, made either by Turner in anticipation of establishing the limits of the composition prior to etching it, or as an indication for a window mount when it was first exhibited.
Forrester 1996, p.136 (analysis by Peter Bower, acknowledged p.8).
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files.

Matthew Imms
May 2006

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Windsor Castle from the Thames c.1807–19 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, May 2006, 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-windsor-castle-from-the-thames-r1131796, accessed 26 November 2014.