This is one of ten large pencil drawings including D12110, D12111, D12113, D12115, D12117, D12118, D12119, D12120 and D12121 (Turner Bequest CLIV L, M, N, Q, S, T, U, V, W) that form a coherent group of views in the Wharfe and Washburn Valleys near Farnley Hall, the Yorkshire home of Turner’s patron Walter Fawkes, and record a tour up the River Wharfe from Farnley to Bolton Abbey. Several formed the bases of finished watercolours, some of which are dateable to 1809. The present writer has dubbed the group the ‘Wharfedale and Washburn’ sketchbook, and although the drawings do not actually form a sketchbook, they nevertheless appear to represent a single campaign, probably in the summer of 1808 on Turner’s first visit to Farnley. It is remarkable that Turner chose to sketch in pencil on such large sheets as these, and it is not at all clear what purpose the large scale was supposed to serve. They must have been problematic to handle in the open air, and we must presume that weather conditions were benign to have made it at all feasible to work with them.
The present sketch shows a view of Bolton Abbey from the north, taken from a viewpoint on the right bank of the Wharfe, a little way upstream. In the group of related pencil drawings, D12117 (CLIV S) is taken from the top of the steep bank to the right, and D12118 (CLIV T) from the riverbank a little further upstream.