Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Distant Building by a Lake or River at Dawn


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Chalk and watercolour on paper
Support: 315 × 487 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 178

Catalogue entry

The loose landscape forms here suggest trees reflected in a wide river or lake, while the pale yellow of the clear sky over the horizon indicates an early morning scene. There may be a substantial building on the skyline towards the right (presumably Finberg’s ‘castle by the sea’1), or possibly a stand of trees. Rough pencil work appears to outline a building with a spire among the trees on the left, and birds tow over the water opposite, with their reflections.
Eric Shanes has tentatively suggested a connection to Turner’s work on a series of panoramic landscape paintings for Lord Egremont’s Carved Room at Petworth House in Sussex in the late 1820s,2 in particular Chichester Canal of about 1829 (Tate T03885, displayed at Petworth)3 and the full-size study Chichester Canal of about 1828 (Tate N00560),4 both roughly symmetrical compositions with trees flanking the broad canal. Any generic similarity to the paintings appears to be fortuitous; see also Tate D25230 and D25233 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 108, 111).
Other compositions with trees beside water in the present section are Tate D25182, D25191, D25303, D25363, D25495 and D25498 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 60, 69, 181, 241, 372, 375a).
Finberg 1909, II, p.828.
See Shanes 1997, p.94.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.168 no.290, pl.292 (colour).
Ibid., p.166 no.285, pl.287 (colour).
Blank; inscribed by John Ruskin in pencil ‘AB 150 P | O’ top left, upside down; inscribed in pencil ‘CCLXIII | 178’ bottom right; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CCLXIII – 178’ bottom right. There are brown stains along the bottom edge, and scattered black stains which may be handprints.

Matthew Imms
December 2015

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