Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Sorrel Plant


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 112 × 89 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLIV a 5

Catalogue entry

Turner’s close-up study of sorrel (Rumex acetosa, also known as spinach dock), was made with the book turned vertically, filling the page. The plant is shown in isolation, with a little shading to indicate the fall of light. Many of Turner’s paintings of the 1800s and 1810s include generic low-growing, dock-like plants in their foregrounds – for example London, exhibited in 1809 (Tate N00483)1 and Grand Junction Canal at Southall Mill, exhibited in 1810 (currently untraced).2 There are further botanical studies on folios 6 recto, 7 recto, 8 recto and 9 recto (D12132, D12133, D12135, D12136).
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.69–70 no.97, pl.104 (colour).
Ibid., pp.72–3 no.101, pl.108 (colour); Martin Butlin, ‘Lost, stolen and destroyed works’, in Evelyn Joll, Butlin and Luke Herrmann eds., The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, p.178, as stolen in 1991.
Technical notes:
The central portion of the top (outer) edge has irregular losses, presumably caused by rubbing against the clasp of the original cover (see the Introduction to the sketchbook), similarly affecting the leaves from folio 1 (D12124, D12125) as far as folio 6 (the recto of which is D12132). There is a pale brown stain radiating from the centre of the top edge, again apparently caused by proximity to the original clasp. A vertical tear towards the left of the top edge has been patched from the verso.
There seems to be no sign of John Ruskin’s usual red ink foliation; there are such numbers on most of the later pages (see the Introduction to the sketchbook).
Blank, save for a small brown patch near the tear on the outer edge, which may be stray pigment.

Matthew Imms
September 2013

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