Joseph Mallord William Turner

Buildings across Dark Water


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 306 x 437 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 187

Catalogue entry

Finberg tentatively suggested this ‘colour beginning’ as ‘Hampton Court (?) from the river’,1 presumably thinking of Turner’s watercolour Hampton Court Palace of about 1827 (private collection),2 engraved in 1829 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impression: T04550); see under Tate D20736 (Turner Bequest CCXXVII 2a) in the Isle of Wight sketchbook, in use in 1827.
The finished design bears very loose comparison, with sunlit buildings across the shallows and exposed muddy banks of the River Thames; this might be more convincing if the England and Wales composition, with trees on the left and the river flowing from that direction, were not effectively reversed in relation to the present arrangement, and any similarity is likely generic.
In his detailed survey of the ‘colour beginnings’, Eric Shanes did not repeat Finberg’s suggestion, although he hinted at a possible England and Wales connection without elaborating.3 The other three quarters of the sheet from which this piece came (Tate D25283, D25284, D25310; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 161, 162, 188; see the technical notes below), all ‘colour beginnings’ of a large building or range of buildings across bright water, have been tentatively classified by Shanes and in the present catalogue as ideas for an England and Wales view of Buckingham Palace. Finberg had linked all of them to Hampton Court.4
Finberg 1909, II, p.828; see also Piggott 2006, p.9.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.395 no.812.
See Shanes 1997, pp.101, 105.
See Finberg 1909, II, p.828.
Technical notes:
Eric Shanes has identified this sheet as a section of a larger one watermarked 1825;1 the three other quarters are listed above.
See Shanes 1997, p.95.
Blank; inscribed by ?John Ruskin in pencil ‘AB 154 P | O’ bottom right; inscribed in pencil ‘CCLXIII | 187’ towards bottom right; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CCLXIII – 187’ towards bottom right.

Matthew Imms
August 2016

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