Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Clear Sky above a Landscape

c.1816–20

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 302 × 428 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D25260
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 138

Catalogue entry

With the bare minimum of composition as such, the colours here give the sense of a sunlit sky above a bright landscape; see also under Tate D17180 (Turner Bequest CXCVI P1) in this subsection, one of a series of four similar sheets of a slightly squarer format employing similar means, presently dated to about 1816–20.
Finberg implied that this was originally a sketchbook page, along with Tate D25255, D25259 and D25261 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 133, 137 and 139), which are separately mounted ‘colour beginning’ sheets of similar dimensions.1 In noting this, Eric Shanes has observed that D25255, a relatively developed Yorkshire landscape subject, may date from 1816 if not about a decade later still, while clouds in D25259 are comparable with those in finished oils of the late 1810s.2 Assuming the putative sketchbook pages were worked on within a relatively short time span, and given its technical similarity to D17180 and related sheets, the present work is here dated to about 1816–20 rather than 1811–20 as most recently assigned to it by Shanes, working forwards from the 1811 watermark.
1
See Finberg 1909, II, pp.824–5.
2
See Shanes 1997, p.91 note 7.1.
Technical notes:
Eric Shanes has noted this as an example of ‘Turner’s use of diffusion in the earliest developmental stages of a watercolour’, as a ‘basic underpainting in which the colours were brushed on and allowed to diffuse into one another’1
1
Ibid., pp. 24–5; see also p.37 for a step-by-step reconstruction of the stages involved.
Verso:
Blank; inscribed by John Ruskin in pencil ‘AB 150 P | O’ top left, upside down; inscribed in pencil ‘CCLXIII 138’ bottom right; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CCLXIII – 138’ bottom right.

Matthew Imms
March 2016

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