Joseph Mallord William Turner

A ‘Fête Champêtre’ with Figures among Trees, Probably at East Cowes Castle


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache on paper
Support: 142 × 191 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXLIV 60

Catalogue entry

This colour study was traditionally associated with Turner’s 1827 stay at Petworth in Sussex, after his Isle of Wight visit, where he produced a series similar in technique,1 addressed elsewhere in this catalogue. However, Ian Warrell has suggested2 that the strong strip of blue beyond the trees is the sea, and that the setting is thus probably the wooded grounds of East Cowes Castle, looking north to the Solent. He has also compared its relaxed, rustic ‘fête champêtre’ or ‘fête galante’ mood with that of Turner’s painting Boccaccio Relating the Tale of the Birdcage, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1828 (Tate N00507),3 to which 1827 drawings specifically showing East Cowes Castle can be related; see under Tate D20844 (Turner Bequest CCXXVII a 41).
This is among dozens of blue paper studies made in and around East Cowes Castle, presumably during the same visit. For more on the various aspects of the house (demolished in about 1950), and its lost grounds as depicted by Turner, see the Introduction to this subsection, where interior scenes formerly associated with Petworth are also noted.
See Finberg 1909, II, pp.744–6, CCXLIV 1–116, ‘Petworth Water Colours’, c.1830.
See Warrell 1989, p.148.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.151–2 no.244, pl.245 (colour).
Blank; inscribed by John Ruskin in ink ‘239 | O’ bottom right; inscribed in pencil ‘22a’ at centre; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram above ‘CCXLIV 60’ bottom left; inscribed in red ink ‘60’, continuing in pencil ‘.ccxliv’, bottom left.
Ruskin’s number signifies that the sheet was once in one of the parcels of unmounted sketches within the Turner Bequest CCXLIV grouping. Those marked with this number were described by him as ‘Colour on grey. Petworth. Worse’; as Finberg notes, this is in relation to those marked ‘238 | O’, described as ‘Inferior’.1

Matthew Imms
November 2015

See Finberg 1909, II, p.744.

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