This colour study of a slender spire against a wide blue sky is of the type Turner made in preparation for the watercolour compositions of his Picturesque Views in England and Wales
. Cook and Wedderburn record John Ruskin’s MS note of 1880 concerning the identification of the view: ‘Grantham–nearly sure’1
– a reference to St Wulfram’ Church, Grantham, Lincolnshire, which Turner had drawn in 1797 in the North of England
sketchbook (Tate D00995
; Turner Bequest XXXIV 84), and there is a watercolour of a different aspect, the North-East View of Grantham Church, Lincolnshire
, of a little earlier (its engraving being dated 1 March 1797), based on a sketch by R.B. Schnebbelie (Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven).2
The profile of the tower and spire is comparable and Finberg tentatively offered the same identification.
Werner Hofmann’s suggestion that the present work relates to the watercolour Salisbury, from the South
, c.1828 (Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum),3
engraved in 1830 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales
(Tate impression: T04586
has been dismissed by Andrew Wilton as ‘the two buildings seem wholly different both in shape and proportion’.5
Wilton subsequently proposed ‘Grantham or Newark’ as possible subjects.6
St Mary Magdalene’s Church, Newark, Nottinghamshire, was the subject of a watercolour of about 1794 (private collection);7
there is also a 1794 pencil sketch showing the spire in the distance (Tate D00360
; Tuner Bequest XXII G).
In relation to England and Wales
compositions, Eric Shanes has given the Grantham church8
and Chichester Cathedral, West Sussex,9
as potential subjects. Chichester seems unlikely, as the section of the tower rising above the high roofline at its crossing forms a relatively shallow cube compared with the triple cube proportion of the tower in the present study. For a more likely Chichester ‘colour beginning’, see Tate D25204
(Turner Bequest CCLXIII 82).
Ian Warrell makes a persuasive case for the spire being that of St Mary’s Church, Petworth, West Sussex, adjacent to Petworth House, the home of Turner’s patron Lord Egremont. he compares it with an 1827 pencil sketch, looking west from rolling countryside to the church, with its newly built steeple, beside the house on the horizon, in the Petworth
sketchbook (Tate D22577
; Turner Bequest CCXLIII 1), and a gouache on blue paper study of a similar view from the same year (Tate D22667
; Turner Bequest CCXLIV 5), with ‘a cluster of peaks to the right resembling [Petworth House’s] chimneys’, possibly echoed in the strokes at the centre of the skyline of the present work10
(the spire has since been taken down).
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