Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Swan Rising from the Water


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 125 × 174 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XLII 14

Catalogue entry

Drawn with the page turned horizontally, this was very likely made at Fonthill while Turner was preparing his views of William Beckford’s new ‘Gothic Abbey’ in 1799; see drawings of workmen with swans on the site in the Fonthill sketchbook (Tate D02191, D02197; Turner Bequest XLVII 14, 20). For further studies of birds, perhaps made at the same time as those and the ones here and on folio 8 recto opposite (D01690; Turner Bequest XLII 15), see the Salisbury sketchbook (Tate D02244–D02246; Turner Bequest XLIX 2, 3, 4). See also folio 6 recto (D01686; Turner Bequest XLII 11) of the present book.
John Ruskin exhibited this and the following page together as specimens of Turner’s observation of animals, ‘fine beyond all expression ... the most perfect possible result obtainable with the given number of touches.’ He goes on:
Observe especially the grand respect of Turner for local colour, – the swan’s black beak being to him, as it would be to every simple and honest observer, one of the main points in the creature ... Observe ... how grandly he has indicated the agitation of the water, as partly the means of expressing the anger of the bird.1
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.275.
Technical notes:
The paper is darkened from exposure.

Andrew Wilton
March 2013

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