Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Lake and Hills: ?Ullswater


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 230 × 370 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXV 46

Catalogue entry

This drawing has traditionally been categorised as an unengraved design for the Liber Studiorum. Although the topography – composed of apparently spontaneous sweeps of wash – seems arbitrary at first glance, the silhouettes of the various hills at the centre and to the right correspond closely with those in the distance of Ullswater Lake, from Gowbarrow Park, Cumberland of about 1815 (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, D.1887.14),1 derived from a Lake District drawing in the 1797 Tweed and Lakes sketchbook (Tate D01044; Turner Bequest XXXV 42). Another, more finished but unengraved Liber Studiorum drawing has traditionally been thought to show Derwentwater, a few miles to the west (Tate D08181; Vaughan Bequest CXVIII a); there is a tentative inscription on the verso of the present sheet suggesting the same identification. In the absence of specific evidence, the span of the Liber’s active publication, 1807–19, is suggested here as a date range for the present work (as it is for various other unpublished designs).
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.363 no.551, reproduced.
Technical notes:
The sheet is from a batch watermarked ‘J Whatman | 1807’.1 The wash of the sky was laid in with a rapid, calligraphic motion, leaving a scalloped edge at its top. The hills were washed in rapidly, leaving small, isolated bare patches in the distance. Those on the left coming towards the foreground were more heavily worked, with vertical strokes washed out on the left, presumably intended as tree trunks. The lake was washed in with rapid, vertical strokes, then worked over with darker touches. There is a yellowish stain all around the central composition, where it was previously mounted to obscure the ragged edges of the washes.
Finberg grouped this sheet with the Studies for Liber sketchbook,2 though it had been removed (either by Turner himself or for display during the nineteenth century) and given the National Gallery Turner number 515; as he could not re-establish the original folio sequence of the detached pages (Tate D08098–D08101; Turner Bequest CXV 45–48), Finberg listed them following on from the ink numbers inscribed on the sheets remaining in the book. There are three holes along the right-hand edge of the sheet, which appear to be intact stitching holes (begging the question of how the sheet was removed from the book). Other pages were worked on in the book as the right-hand side of their respective double-page spreads, but the position of the holes here suggest unusually that Turner worked on the verso of a page, or a recto with the book inverted.
Notes by Peter Bower, Tate conservation files.
Finberg 1909, I, pp.314–15, CXV.

Matthew Imms
May 2006

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