Joseph Mallord William Turner

Banks of the River Arun


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 225 x 370 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CIX 3

Catalogue entry

Turner names the drawing ‘Banks of Arun’ on the verso (D40276). For another view of the Arun, with fishermen, from the same sketchbook see D07513; Turner Bequest CIX 2.
The verses, transcribed by Rosalind Mallord Turner for the 1992 Tate exhibition, are as follows:
A gleam so hopeful shone on Arun[‘s] reed strewn shore
When Colin by the sedgy bank did thoughtful roam
Yon char[ming] ray of sunshine born
That memory so fair a thought
Transient as the dew upon the thorn
That mark[s] the thorn [?apple] so finely wrought
When his mortal ray
Wilton relates this and a further, similar extract on the verso to pastoral stanzas written by Turner in his Verse Book (private collection) in connection with the picture Thomson’s Aeolian Harp (Manchester Art Gallery),1 a tribute to the poet James Thomson exhibited in 1809. Here, Turner envisions the banks of ‘sedgy’Arun roamed by one ‘Colin’, presumably the Chichester poet William Collins whose Ode on the Death of Mr Thomson (1749) had been an inspiration for the picture. In the contemporary Hastings sketchbook (Tate D07745; Turner Bequest CXI 95), the Arun is associated with the youth of Thomas Otway, author of the tragedy Venice Preserv’d (1682). Wilton comments on Turner’s habitual association of river scenery with poets and his own ‘meditative verse’. The poetic tastes and large library of Turner’s Sussex host, the Earl of Egremont, may have prompted the reflections here.

David Blayney Brown
August 2009

Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.64–5 no.86 (pl.96).

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