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

Smaller South Wales sketchbook c.1795–9

Turner Bequest XXV 1–86
Sketchbook bound in calf with gold tooled spine; Finberg notes ‘three clasps (now broken)’, which are now missing; a label on the spine is stamped in gold on red ‘SKETCHES’
86 leaves, 84 of white wove paper and the last two of white laid paper, and another laid leaf now incorporated in the back cover; watermarks ‘E & P 1794’ and ‘J WHATMAN’; page size 130 x 205 mm
Inscribed by Turner in ink ‘South Wales’ bottom centre on front cover, upside down (D40755); Finberg records a manuscript label ‘on back’ inscribed by Turner ‘34. S. Wales’, which is no longer extant
Numbered 295 as part of the Turner Schedule, and endorsed by the Executors of the Turner Bequest, Henry Scott Trimmer, Charles Turner, John Prescott Knight and Charles Lock Eastlake, in ink ‘No 295. Contains 32 Sketches in Pencel | & Colors. H.S. Trimmer’ | ‘C Turner.’ and in pencil ‘JPK’ and ‘C.L.E.’ top centre inside front cover (D40756)
Stamped in black ‘XXV’ top left inside front cover (D40756) and again top right inside back cover
Finberg records Ruskin’s inscription on the wrapper ‘295. Very early, and of little interest. 5 leaves taken out which were burnt at the edge.’ (see folios 1 recto–5 recto; D00462–D00466)
This is one of two sketchbooks that Turner took with him on his tour to South Wales in the summer of 1795. The other is the larger South Wales book (Tate; Turner Bequest XXVI), which begins with a long itinerary, copied out from a guide book or from a friend’s notes, by another hand. The smaller book was not filled; the tour is recorded there mostly in pencil sketches, while more elaborate drawings and coloured studies occupy the larger book. He seems certainly to have taken a box of watercolours with him.
The notes in the South Wales book testify to the care with which he planned his trip. He crossed the Severn into Wales from Bristol at the Aust Ferry, then travelled via Newport to Cardiff, Llandaff and Cowbridge. He made detours south of the main road to Ewenny and north of it to Aberdulais and Melincourt, then via the Vale of Neath to Swansea, Kidwelly and Carmarthen, and farther west to Tenby, Pembroke and St David’s. From there he returned via Haverfordwest and Carmarthen along the Tywi valley to Llandeilo and Brecon. He was apparently in a hurry by this stage of the journey, for he made few drawings in Wales on the return leg; but see folio 23 recto (D00484). He stopped at Hereford and Ross-on-Wye on his way back into England. The antiquities he found on this tour inspired some of the grandest of his early watercolours, including the Trancept of Ewenny Priory, exhibited in 1797 (National Museum Wales, Cardiff),1 and two large views of Pembroke Castle, shown in 1801 and 1806 (respectively private collection2 and University of Toronto3).
The present order of leaves in this, the smaller book, is not certainly the original one. Here, after folio 23 (D00484), the sequence of drawings made on the Welsh tour is broken by watercolour studies possibly made elsewhere, perhaps in south-east England, including some broad, relatively featureless landscapes. Three leaves, folios 35 verso, 80 verso and 81 verso (D00497, D00543, D00545), have freer pencil sketches of trees which appear to have been drawn at a later date; but other drawings bound in sequence with them on folios 82 verso and 83 verso (D00547, D00549), are evidently of the same period as the Welsh drawings. A similar break in chronology occurs in the later pages of the South Wales sketchbook (Tate D00628–D00660; Turner Bequest XXVI 71v–98).
1
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.325 no.227, pl.28.
2
Ibid., p.331 no.280, pl.64 (colour).
3
Ibid., p.331 no.281, reproduced.

Andrew Wilton
April 2012

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How to cite

Andrew Wilton, ‘Smaller South Wales sketchbook c.1795–9’, sketchbook, 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/smaller-south-wales-sketchbook-r1140778, accessed 27 November 2014.