Joseph Mallord William Turner

Boats and Figures by the River Thames, with Houses and Trees Beyond


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 110 × 185 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXXVII 1

Catalogue entry

Subsequent to Finberg’s 1909 Inventory, both he and the Turner scholar C.F. Bell identified this as a ‘Thames’ scene;1 it appears to continue half-way across the inside front cover opposite (D41005), with what appears to be a compact Baroque house with wings and a colonnade. There seems to be a tall signpost at the very left of this part of the view, perhaps for an inn, but this and pencil details of the far bank are unclear against the grey wash ground.
The rig of the largest boat is typical of the Thames barges which Turner observed upriver of London in the neighbourhood of Isleworth and Richmond in the mid 1800s (see the ‘Thames Sketchbooks c.1804–14’ section). Compare the distant barge among other boats in the watercolour Hampton Court Palace of about 1827 (private collection),2 engraved in 1829 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impression: T04550), for which there are direct studies among other Thames views in this sketchbook, noted under folio 2 verso (D20736).
Undated MS notes by Finberg (died 1939) and C.F. Bell (died 1966) in copies of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, II, p.698.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.395 no.812.
Technical notes:
The original application of the grey wash was a little uneven towards the right, leaving bare white paper giving a fortuitous effect of dappled light. Reflections on the water and one or two other details including a wall on the far bank have been emphasised by rubbing or scratching through the ground.

Matthew Imms
November 2015

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