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

Liber Studiorum: Probable or Possible Designs, not Engraved in Turner’s Lifetime c.1807–24

Turner Bequest CXVI G, H, CXVIII d–h, CXX I, CCLXIII 251; Vaughan Bequest CXVIII Y, Z, a–c
W.G. Rawlinson concluded his 1878 catalogue of the Liber Studiorum with a number of drawings which he assumed to be designs for it, but for which no corresponding engraved plates or proofs are known:
The eight [sic] Drawings [nos.92–100], never having been Engraved or Etched, cannot definitely be said to belong to Liber Studiorum. They have however always been considered to represent Turner’s preparations for the completion of the work; they are of the same size as the Liber Drawings, and they are in sepia, a vehicle rarely used by Turner elsewhere. They are nearly all of the highest character, though generally somewhat slightly executed.1
Apparently inadvertently, Rawlinson’s total thus remained one short of Turner’s presumed target of a hundred and one compositions including the Frontispiece (no.1 in Rawlinson’s catalogue: see Tate D08150; Vaughan Bequest CXVII V). His revised 1906 edition concludes with no.99, though the former no.100 is mentioned after the last entry;2 by then he considered a few further Turner Bequest works to be Liber designs, and was apparently instrumental in reproducing them as such a few years later (see under no.101 in the checklist below).
Finberg had included unengraved drawings in the Liber sections of his 1909 Turner Bequest Inventory,3 but stopped short in his 1924 Liber catalogue, not mentioning them individually and concluding with composition no.91 (the last for which an unpublished engraving exists), noting in his preface: ‘I have confined my Catalogue to the list of published and unpublished plates. I consider it a mistake to include any unengraved drawings in the catalogue of a series of engravings.’4 He expanded on this in the text, describing the linkage of such works to the established canon on the ‘only’ basis that ‘the most painstaking scrutiny can discover’ as ‘feeble’ and ‘misleading’. Perhaps over-emphatically, he declared: ‘Any attempt to go beyond [the engraved compositions] lands us in a region of vague surmises, uncertainties, and dangers, without the slightest prospect of any compensating advantages.’ In consequence of this he regarded it as ‘unfortunate’ that Frank Short’s engravings after these designs (‘fine’ as they were) had added a spurious legitimacy to such speculation.5
In 1996,6 Gillian Forrester followed Finberg’s model, also ending at the established no.91 in the main catalogue sequence ‘since Turner’s intentions for the completion of the Liber are still a matter for speculation’,7 although further drawings are briefly discussed in her preliminary text.8 The Tate drawings among Rawlinson’s nos.92–100 are included in the present section of the catalogue, as well as a few others long associated with the Liber (see checklist below). Forrester also mentions drawings in a similar style but not included by Rawlinson: a Study on the Washburn,9 another study of trees and water in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford10 (see under Tate D08159; Vaughan Bequest CXVIII E), and a shipping study at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven11 (see under Tate N02942).
W[illiam] G[eorge] Rawlinson, Turner’s Liber Studiorum, A Description and a Catalogue, London 1878, p.170.
W[illiam] G[eorge] Rawlinson, Turner’s Liber Studiorum, A Description and a Catalogue. Second Edition, Revised Throughout, London 1906, p.204.
A.J. Finberg, A Complete Inventory of the Drawings of the Turner Bequest, London 1909, vol.I, pp.316, 324.
Alexander J. Finberg, The History of Turner’s Liber Studiorum with a New Catalogue Raisonné, London 1924, p.v.
Ibid., p.xlviii.
Gillian Forrester, Turner’s ‘Drawing Book’: The Liber Studiorum, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1996.
Ibid., p.25 note 83.
Ibid., pp.15, 16, 24–5 note 83, 25 notes 86, 92.
Ibid., p.25 note 92.
Ibid., p.16.
The following checklist is in the standard Rawlinson order12 discussed above (for the full series, see the general introduction to the Liber Studiorum). Tate accession numbers and Turner Bequest numbers are given for the original drawings acquired in the Turner and Vaughan Bequests or elsewhere, which have individual catalogue entries. Turner’s later painting inspired by one of the works, and the later prints by Frank Short are noted. When the original drawing is not at Tate, brief details are given.
92. View of a River from a Terrace (?Mâcon)
Tate D08179; Vaughan Bequest CXVIII Y. Later engraved by Sir Frank Short: Tate T05070
93. Falls of the Rhine, Schaffhausen
Tate D08180; Vaughan Bequest CXVIII Z. Later engraved by Short: T05071, T05072; later painting by Turner: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
94. View of a Lake. (?Derwentwater)
Tate D08181; Vaughan Bequest CXVIII a. Later engraved by Short (no Tate impression)
95. Sion House, Isleworth
British Museum, London (1861–8–10–29)13 – perhaps loosely derived from Tate D08269; Turner Bequest CXXI M. Later engraved by Short:14 Tate T0507315
96. Huntsmen in a Wood
British Museum, London (1861–8–10–31) – perhaps relating to similar subjects deriving from visits to Walter Fawkes at Farnley Hall.16 Later engraved by Sir Frank Short17
97. Lucerne: Moonrise over the Kapellbrücke
Tate D08182; Vaughan Bequest CXVIII b. Later engraved by Short (no Tate impression)
98. Shipping at the Entrance of the Medway
Tate N02942. Later engraved by Short (no Tate impression)
99. The ‘Victory’ Coming up the Channel with the Body of Nelson
Tate D08183; Vaughan Bequest CXVIII c. Later engraved by Short (no Tate impression)
100. A Pastoral
Tate D08184; Turner Bequest CXVIII d. Later engraved by Short: Tate T05074
101: Tantalisingly, Rawlinson had mentioned ‘five or six more sepia Drawings of exactly the Liber size and character, and which I think there can be little doubt were intended as alternative subjects for the work, ... discovered among the treasures of the Turner Bequest’ in his revised Liber catalogue of 1906, but instead of listing them specifically he ‘contented [him]self with describing only the ninety-nine concerning which there are virtually no doubts.’18 At the end of the catalogue he casually referred to them again, this time as only ‘four or five sketches’ (now including the Pastoral, no.100 above);19 as Forrester notes, ‘it is uncertain which ones he had in mind.’20 However, in the 1911 Miniature Edition of Liber reproductions six further works (each captioned ‘101??’) were tentatively presented – seemingly by or at the suggestion of Rawlinson, who gave ‘generous help and advice all through’21 – as alternative designs for a last plate to make up the full projected total of one hundred and one including the Frontispiece. Four are catalogued in this section:
Windsor Castle from the Thames: Tate D08185; Turner Bequest CXVIII e
Storm in the Mediterranean: Tate D08186; Turner Bequest CXVIII f
A Lake or River with Wooded Banks and a Distant Bridge: Tate D08187; Turner Bequest CXVIII g
An Italianate Terrace or Bridge with a Statue: Tate D40045; Turner Bequest CXVIII h
The remaining two are catalogued with the Studies for Liber sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest CXV): A Storm at Sea: Study after ‘The Bridgewater Sea Piece’; D08098; CXV 45; A Bridge in a Mountain Pass; D08101; CXV 48.
Also catalogued here are four designs on sheets which were originally four quarters of a single whole, watermarked 1824. Their relationship to the Liber is uncertain, but two of them were included in Finberg’s Inventory among the Liber designs:
A Silent Pool: Tate D08108; Turner Bequest CXVI G
Blacksmith’s Shop; Tate D08109; Turner Bequest CXVI H
A River Bank, with Figures: Tate D08222; Turner Bequest CXX I
Storm at Sea: Tate D25373; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 251
In general, a date of circa 1807–19, the span of the Liber’s active publication, has been adopted for those works in this section for which more specific evidence is lacking; the four works mentioned immediately above are special cases, and their 1824 watermark has provided their possible date.
There are a few further drawings at Tate which are possibly connected to the Liber, but have not currently been included in the Liber catalogue sections. Tate D06851 (Turner Bequest CIII 21), from the 1808 Tabley, No.1 sketchbook was catalogued by Finberg as a ‘Study in sepia for a “Liber” subject.’22 It is executed in brown washes and included distant classical buildings, a bridge and trees – all typical Liber elements. The sketchbook also includes a list of historical/mythological Liber subjects (see general Liber introduction), for which the composition might have provided a setting. There are also loose monochromatic wash studies among Finberg’s general groupings of Turner Bequest material, such as CXIX, CXX, CXCVI and CCLXIII.
Rawlinson 1878 and 1906.
Forrester 1996, p.16, reproduced fig.8; Kim Sloan, J.M.W. Turner. Watercolours from the R.W. Lloyd Bequest in the British Museum, London 1998, pp.149–50.
Martin Hardie, The Liber Studiorum Mezzotints of Sir Frank Short, R.A., P.R.E. after J.M.W. Turner, R.A. Catalogue & Introduction, London 1938, p.72 no.40, reproduced p.[117] pl.XIX.
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986 – 88, London 1996, p.77.
Forrester 1996, p.16, reproduced fig.7; Sloan 1998, p.150.
Hardie 1938, pp.72–3 no.41, reproduced p.[119] pl.XX.
Rawlinson 1906, p.168.
Ibid., p.204.
Forrester 1996, p.25 note 92.
Liber Studiorum: J.M.W. Turner: Miniature Edition Containing Reproductions (I.) from First Published State of the Seventy-One Published Plates, and (II.) of the Original Drawings for, or Engraver’s Proofs of, All the Unpublished Plates as the Artist Left Them, London and Glasgow 1911, p.[3]
Finberg 1909, I, p.271.

Matthew Imms
May 2006

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How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Liber Studiorum: Probable or Possible Designs, not Engraved in Turner’s Lifetime c.1807–24’, subset, May 2006, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, December 2012, http://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/liber-studiorum-probable-or-possible-designs-not-engraved-in-turners-lifetime-r1131788, accessed 17 April 2014.