Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Building among Trees near Virginia Water


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 120 × 203 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXXXVIII 71 a

Catalogue entry

The building in the present view is not identified, but clearly belongs with the Virginia Water views discussed below, and was presumably a pavilion or summerhouse beside or near the lake. It features a fence or balustrade with diagonal slats, and appears to stand above a rockery-like feature.
Most of the drawings between here and folio 92 recto (D22149; Turner Bequest CCXXXVIII 90) were made around Virginia Water, the lake at the south end of Windsor Great Park, about five miles south of Windsor Castle (a frequent subject of Turner’s). The artificial lake, created between the 1740s and the 1790s,1 is about three miles long, with its western half towards Ascot and Sunningdale in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (historically Berkshire), and its eastern half towards the village of Virginia Water in Surrey; between the lake and the village runs the London-Salisbury road, which Turner travelled on numerous occasions.
As the drawings are inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation, it seems that Turner worked inwards from what is now regarded as the back of the sketchbook. Many of the views focus on the Chinese-style ‘Fishing Temple’ pavilion on the north shore of the lake, renovated in the Swiss style in 1867 and demolished in 1936.2 It would become the focus of two watercolours of Virginia Water, engraved for The Keepsake. The first (private collection),3 showing the Fishing Temple at an oblique angle from the south-east, was engraved in 1830 (Tate impressions: T04618, T06141); so was the second (untraced),4 a head-on view from the south with Johnson’s Pond receding to the right of the pavilion (Tate impressions: T04616, T04617, T06140). Turner is said to have hoped in vain for one or both to be purchased by King George IV,5 whose elaborate fishing boat is shown in both views; this perhaps explains the large number of sketches here in the artist’s search for compositions to please his intended patron. A miniature copy in enamels by Henry Bone (1755–1834) of the first watercolour is in the Royal Collection; although its early provenance is not recorded, it must have been made .6

Matthew Imms
August 2013

See Eric Shanes, Turner’s England 1810–38, London 1990, p.161.
See ibid., p.277.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.359 no.519, pl.141 (colour); the present sketchbook is mentioned in this entry only in broad terms.
Ibid., no.520.
See ibid. under no.519, and Shanes 1990, pp.161, 277.
‘Virginia Water’, Royal Collection Trust, accessed 16 June 2013,

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