Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Storm with Thunder and Lightning; a Study for a Classical Subject, Possibly Hero and Leander; ?a Rural Bridge


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 190 × 111 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCIV 39

Catalogue entry

With the page turned vertically, Turner has divided it into three with horizontal pencil lines. At the top is a study of storm clouds, with a jagged bolt of lightning. At the bottom appears to be a shallow valley with trees on each side and a series of coupled vertical strokes between which may indicate buildings or possibly the piers of a bridge. The setting may be the Thames Valley; see under folio 2 recto (D17775). For other sky and cloud studies, see the entry for the inside of the front cover (D40982).
The central composition shows a classical seaport in the manner of Claude Lorrain, with a central disk probably indicating the sun or possibly the moon, if Turner was thinking in nocturnal terms of a setting for the story of the doomed lovers Hero and Leander, as tentative readings of his miniscule inscriptions suggest. The subject was fulfilled in his somewhat later painting The Parting of Hero and Leander, exhibited in 1837 (National Gallery, London);1 the subject had been approached in a number of widely varying studies over many years.2 One in the 1816 Yorkshire 1 sketchbook (Tate D11036; Turner Bequest CXLIV 103a) includes a foreground figure of Hymen with her arm raised, as does that on a separate sheet (Tate D34924; Turner Bequest CCCXLIV 427), as also shown here and in the painting. For Claude and a sequence of classical studies near the beginning of this book, see under folio 1 verso (D17774).
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.221–2 no.370, pl.374 (colour).
See ibid., p.221.
Technical notes:
John Ruskin’s customary red ink page number beside the later stamp is not readily apparent here, although those on other leaves of this sketchbook are generally very faint.

Matthew Imms
November 2014

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