Joseph Mallord William Turner

A River Valley with a Bridge and a Distant Spire

c.1828–40

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 355 × 518 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D25223
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 101

Catalogue entry

In this fluid evocation of a river valley, focusing on a bridge with two arches silhouetted against the light, a tall church spire, as pale as the surrounding sky, is indicated beyond to the left. The forms on the right suggest a low cliff, possibly with a castle on the skyline.
Within the present section, bridges also appear in Tate D25235 and D25493 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 113, 370).
Technical notes:
This Imperial-format sheet of white wove watercolour paper was made by Richard Turner and Mr Letts of Upper Tolvil Mill, Maidstone, Kent. The ‘Ruse & Turners’ watermark originated in the 1805 partnership between Richard and Thomas Turner and Joseph Ruse.1
Paper conservator Peter Bower has noted: ‘The deep glow within this image gains some of its power from the fact that the verso has been washed in colour, in a similar manner to the verso painting technique Turner used in the 1790s for his large Norham Castle studies’2 (Tate D02343, D02344; Turner Bequest L B, C).
1
See Bower 1999, p.87.
2
Ibid.
Verso:
Blank; inscribed by John Ruskin in pencil ‘AB 93 P | O’ bottom right; inscribed in pencil ‘31’ centre right, upside down; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CCLXIII – 101’ bottom left.
The whole of this side has been treated with a rough grey-brown wash, darkest in a horizontal band level with the bridge on the recto and again in the area corresponding to the slopes on the right, apparently with the aim of intensifying the colours of the composition, as discussed above.

Matthew Imms
December 2015

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