Joseph Mallord William Turner

At Queenborough on the River Swale, and Other River Scenes


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 190 × 112 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCIX 85 a

Catalogue entry

Articulated by Finberg as ‘Scenes on river’, the drawings on this page indeed comprise a group of studies which describe views of a waterway, all composed with the page turned vertically.1 The Queenborough identification offered here is provoked predominantly by the bottommost sketch. Here Turner seems to describe a view of the Holy Trinity Church at Queenborough, observed from a southern viewpoint. To the northwest, a tall mill breaks the horizon, in an arrangement repeated on folio 86 verso (D17499), and possibly also much earlier on folio 8 recto (D17378).
The other drawings on the sheet offer less material for definitive identification, but are punctuated with a variety of inscriptions, detailing points of colour and tone, light and dark. Heavy, tumultuous cloud pervades all three of these additional sketches, rendered in places with bouncing, full curves, and in others with long, fluid strokes of the pencil. Heavy rain blights the vessels in the scene second from top, driving down upon the vulnerable masts in harsh, diagonal blades that slice across the blank expanse of sky. The third scene is overlooked by a circular orb in the middle of the sky, inscribed ‘S’ and describing the position of the sun. Boats populate each of the scenes, ranging from miniscule shapes in the distance in the top example, to a foregrounded light craft close to the middle of the sheet, displayed in full sail.

Maud Whatley
January 2016

Finberg 1909, I, p.609.

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