Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Picnic Party at the Dovestone in Hall Beck Gill near Farnley Hall

c.1816

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 187 x 230 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D12099
Turner Bequest CLIV A

Catalogue entry

This folio served on one side (D40047) as the outer wrapper and last page of a letter addressed to ‘Walter Fawkes Esqre, Farnley Hall, Otley, Yorkshire’, folded in on itself and sealed. On the opposite side to the address is a sketch of Hall Beck Gill,1 not far from Farnley in the Upper Washburn Valley. It is not clear whether the sketch formed part of the original letter, or whether Turner drew it later.
The subject of the sketch has been mistakenly identified as Gordale Scar.2 The distant valley closure is like Gordale, but the foreground crags are identifiable instead as the Dovestone in Hall Beck Gill, near Farnley Hall, the Yorkshire home of Turner’s patron Walter Fawkes. The variety of figures in the sketch is interesting. The three to the right are female; one with an umbrella (or parasol) and another seated on the ground, perhaps sketching. The Dovestone is not much visited today, but its south-facing aspect and commanding situation provides an obvious place to picnic. On the spot it is noticeable that Turner’s viewpoint is on steeply sloping and uneven ground, and also uncomfortably close to the crag. Evidently there is some contrivance in the way Turner presents his material here. The view of the end of the valley seems taken from a different viewpoint, more distant and lower than the view of the crag.
There are other sketches of the Dovestone and Hall Beck Gill in the Large Farnley sketchbook (Tate D09023; Turner Bequest CXXVIII 7), and others in the Devonshire Rivers, No.3, and Wharfedale sketchbook (Tate D09798, D09799, D09804; Turner Bequest CXXXIV 9, 10, and 14) and the Yorkshire 6 sketchbook (D11900, D11901; Turner Bequest CXLIX 299, 298a &c) but none from the same viewpoint as this. Turner stayed at Farnley most years between 1808 and 1824 and presumably visited the site on a number of occasions.

David Hill
June 2009

Revised by David Blayney Brown
April 2013

1
The site has previously been mistakenly called Kex Gill, not least by the present writer. Kex Gill runs west from the watershed between Bolton Bridge and Blubberhouses. Hall Beck runs east to the River Washburn at Blubberhouses. The crag is called the Dovestone on the first edition Ordnance Survey of 1851.
2
Hill, Warburton and Tussey 1980, p.27.

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