Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Composition of the Deluge


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 327 × 433 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XLVII 22

Catalogue entry

There are further studies for a Deluge subject on D02198, D02210 (Turner Bequest XLVII 21, 33) and possibly D02211 (Turner Bequest XLVII 34). Turner painted a large canvas on that subject which he probably showed in his own gallery in 1805, which appeared again at the Royal Academy in 1813 (Tate N00493).1 Its composition bears little resemblance to any of the ideas rehearsed here, though the low bleared sun on the right of this drawing, made with the page turned horizontally, and the figures clambering up islanded rocks, are typical of Deluge iconography.
Apart from the sketches in this book, Turner made drawings on the same theme in his Calais Pier sketchbook (Tate D05022–D05023; Turner Bequest XXXI 120–121). He had been inspired to tackle the subject by seeing Winter: The Deluge by Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665) in the Louvre on his visit to Paris in 1802. His notes on that picture are in the Studies in the Louvre sketchbook (Tate D04327–D04328; Turner Bequest LXII 41a–42). It is interesting that his thoughts on this grand Biblical (or Miltonic) subject borrow the device of a framing screen of trees from the views of Fonthill (D02180, D02190, D02223, D02228; Turner Bequest XLVII 3, 13, 46, 51).
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.43–4 no.55, pl.65 (colour).
Technical notes:
For a proposed sequence for the leaves of the disbound Fonthill sketchbook, with this page as folio 30, see the Introduction.

Andrew Wilton
March 2013

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