Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Steamer off a Wooded Shore


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 110 × 185 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXXVII 35

Catalogue entry

The drawing is inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation. In discussing a ‘colour beginning’ of Garrick’s Villa at Hampton (Tate D25145; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 23) based on pencil drawings elsewhere in this sketchbook (see under folio 21 verso; D20764; Turner Bequest CCXXVII 20), Ian Warrell has observed that the present scene and another watercolour on folio 5 recto (D20741) are ‘similar ... in their treatment of Thames scenery under cloudy summer skies’.1
There are no identifiable landmarks here, and the scene may be at least in part improvised, but it has a feeling of the rural Thames as Turner often depicted it through much of his career,2 apparently with the novel element of a small steamboat silhouetted towards the right. See under folio 2 verso (D20736) for identified views along the river in the vicinity of Hampton Court elsewhere in this sketchbook.
Warrell 1991, p.47.
See David Hill, Turner on the Thames: River Journeys in the Year 1805, New Haven and London 1993.
Technical notes:
This is one of several pages where the monochrome grey wash common to all the rectos has been worked in watercolour with occasional scratching out; see under folio 5 recto (D20741). Even with the grey wash left undisturbed, the pale building against the trees and its long reflection stand out, recalling Turner’s talismanic attachment to the watercolour The White House at Chelsea (Tate N04728) by his early friend and rival Thomas Girtin (1775–1802).1

Matthew Imms
November 2015

For Turner and the White House see for example Susan Morris, ‘Girtin, Thomas (1775–1802)’ in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann (eds.), The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, p.126.

Read full Catalogue entry


You might like

In the shop