As Gillian Forrester has noted,1 there are similarities between this loose, watery composition, an equally liquid oil study from Turner’s Thames expeditions of 1805, Willows beside a Stream (Tate N02706),2 and the willows and river-bank of Pan and Syrinx, an unpublished, mythological Liber Studiorum subject apparently dating from the tail-end of the project in the early 1820s, the drawing for which is in the British Museum, London.3 There may be a figure (with a dark dot for a head), perhaps in a boat, in the gap between the trees to the left, while towards the right an arch-shaped area appears to have been deliberately left blank, possibly with some architectural feature – perhaps a bridge – in mind. Raphael Rosenberg observes: ‘Wasser is hier sowohl Gegenstand als auch Medium der Darstellung’4 (water is here both the subject and medium of the representation). In the absence of specific evidence, the span of the Liber Studiorum’s active publication, 1807–19, is given here as a date range for the present work (as it is for various other unpublished designs).
Forrester 1996, p.24 note 81.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.118–19 no.172, pl.172 (colour).
W[illiam] G[eorge] Rawlinson, Turner’s Liber Studiorum, A Description and a Catalogue, London 1878, p.158 no.80; ... Second Edition, Revised Throughout, London 1906, pp.183 no.80; Alexander J. Finberg, The History of Turner’s Liber Studiorum with a New Catalogue Raisonné, London 1924, pp.319–21 no.80; Forrester 1996, p.144, no.80i, reproduced (drawing).
Hollein and Rosenberg 2007, p.126.
The paper is from a batch watermarked ‘J Whatman | 1807’.1 Pale washes were laid in on the dry paper, with the darker details in the left distance put in wet on wet. Trees were added with sweeping brushstrokes when the background was dry; the trunks at the left were washed out. There is a grey spillage or blot at the top right, which has bled though slightly to the back of the sheet.
This sheet was recorded by Finberg in 1909 as apparently still being in the sketchbook, but if so it was subsequently removed before the book was badly damaged by immersion in the basement of the Tate Gallery during the Thames flood of January 1928. His number, ‘8’, corresponds with the red ink folio numbers inscribed in the book by Ruskin. The whole sheet was taken from the book, leaving no stub, and then trimmed slightly irregularly at the left-hand edge to remove the stitching holes, their vestiges being just apparent.
Notes by Peter Bower, Tate conservation files.