Joseph Mallord William Turner

Back View of a Man Fishing


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 114 × 191 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXI 42

Catalogue entry

The drawing shows the back view of a man in a hat and coat, equipped with a fishing rod and apparently wading in water up to his knees. It is unclear whether it was made in the course of Turner’s 1831 Midlands tour or on another occasion. The lower third of the page is taken up with associated notes:
[... ?thin trou... | Provide yourself with plenty of gentles in the | lowermost corner of your Jacket pocket If the | aforesaid be old so much the better because they | the maggots) will work through the same cleaning | them the while. Wade up to an [?inclination] | of 45 or thereabouts in the stream and you are sure | to have fish before or behind1
‘Gentles’ is a fisherman’s term for maggots, used as bait. Any published source for these precise instructions has not been established. Ian Warrell has noted that the figure was redrawn by Turner to be engraved for the Houghton Fishing Club Album; a related sketch was with a London art dealer in about 2009.2 The exclusive Houghton Club was founded in 1822, and is based on the River Test at Stockbridge in Hampshire.3
Fishing was a favourite hobby of Turner’s.4 Compare the fishing party on folio 4 verso (D22157); for other figure studies in this sketchbook, see the entry for inside the front cover (D41053). The name inscribed on the recto of this leaf (D18592; Turner Bequest CCXI 42a) appears to relate to angling, although the exact chain of connection is yet to be established.
Based on transcription in Finberg 1909, II, p.645.
Ian Warrell, notes from 1993 and later in Tate catalogue files.
See ‘The Houghton Club’, FishPal, accessed 18 October 2013,; and Jeremy Musson, ‘Clubs You Cannot Join’, Country Life, accessed 18 October 2013,
See Hamilton 2001, p.110.
Technical notes:
The page has been correctly reattached to the jagged stub left behind in the current sketchbook at a point where Finberg noted: ‘Leaf torn out’1 (see also the Technical notes in the sketchbook’s Introduction). He did not recognise the connection with this leaf, instead suggesting it as one of two which ‘may have belonged ... at one time’2 to the Paris, Seine and Dieppe sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest CCVI), with which he grouped it.3 The other, Finberg’s CCVI 43/43a (Tate D40495, D40518) is also no longer associated with the Paris book.

Matthew Imms
April 2014

Finberg 1909, II, p.736.
Ibid., p.645.
See Warrell 1999, p.253 note 43.

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