Joseph Mallord William Turner, 'Hamoaze from St John, Cornwall' 1813
Joseph Mallord William Turner
Hamoaze from St John, Cornwall 1813
Oil on paper
support: 164 x 257 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

The exhibits in this room show various aspects of Turner’s technical procedures as he responded to the landscape and developed possible compositions. While today we may be tempted to admire the spontaneity of the sketch and even prefer it to the finished picture, this was not Turner’s intention. Sketching was a means of engaging with the visible world and also of manipulating its effects when working up finished compositions, but it was the finished compositions that mattered. Turner rarely painted direct from nature and the oil sketches shown here are a significant exception to the rule. The watercolour sketches are very different insofar as they were made in the studio, not in the open air. They are part of a group of similar studies customarily referred to as ‘colour beginnings,’ following an inscription on one of them in Turner’s hand, in which he organised the broad effects of tone and colour underlying his compositions.