Joseph Mallord William Turner

A River Valley at Sunset


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 385 × 553 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 127

Catalogue entry

This atmospheric view of a deep river valley suggests a late afternoon or sunset scene with the foreground thrown into shadow, the contrast emphasised by the golden light on the hills beyond while the water still reflects the pale sky. Rough triangles drawn in pencil at the right might indicate sails, as might the dark outlines brushed in at the bottom left.
The mood and colouring are comparable with those in a watercolour of The Tavy Valley, near Mary Tavy, Devon with Pack Horses in the Foreground, sold at Christie's New York on 29 January 2015 (lot 105),1 with its sunlit hill rising to the left above a shadowy river bank; Turner had visited the area in 1813 and 1814. The setting of the present work may nevertheless be generic, although Eric Shanes has offered the mountains of both Scotland and Wales as possibilities.2
Not in Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979.
See Shanes 1997, pp.101, 103.
Technical notes:
A piece measuring some 25 x 44 mm, missing from the bottom left corner, has been made up and painted to match the original washes there.
Blank; inscribed by John Ruskin in pencil ‘AB 92 P | O’ bottom right; inscribed in pencil ‘CCLXIII.127’ bottom right; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CCLXIII – 127’ bottom right. The surface is somewhat stained.

Matthew Imms
December 2015

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