Joseph Mallord William Turner

Cheddar Gorge: The Lion Rock from the Village


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 222 × 182 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXV b 1

Catalogue entry

Turner’s viewpoint is The Cliffs, the road leading east from Cheddar village into the gorge, looking east from near the junction with Cufic Lane. The upright outcrop apparently inscribed ‘Ston[e]’ is the Lion Rock, so named since its south face resembles that animal’s features, although Turner has not indicated its profile in any detail, by contrast with the apparently anthropomorphic reading of Stonehenge’s Heel Stone on folio 12 recto (D41385). The shallow diagonal to the right is the skyline on the far side of the road where it bends sharply to the north; the detail at the top centre appears to be another version of this rock.
In adopting a vertical format for the sketch, Turner ran out of lateral space. The crags at the top right are a continuation of the view from the same spot, but in reality they are further to the right, rising from Turner’s lower central skyline on the south side of the road at the bend. Today tea rooms and a museum occupy the position of the houses sketched here. Some of these buildings may date from Turner’s time, unlike the utilitarian ones now framing the entrance to Gough’s Cave on the opposite side of the bend. The present sketch is the first in a sequence, concluding on folio 8 recto (D41381), showing Cheddar Gorge; most of the studies were apparently made in a concentrated area around the Horseshoe Bend.
As discussed in the introduction, the pages of this ‘sketchbook’, which appear to have originally been loose sheets, are not recorded in Finberg’s 1909 Inventory of the Bequest, although he subsequently noted the subject as ‘Group of Cottages among Rocks’ in a manuscript list,1 while C.F. Bell described it in his own notes as ‘Rocky gorge’.2 The reading of the inscription at the bottom left follows Finberg’s suggestion, although the first word might just be ‘Cheddar’ or a variant, and the last word is also uncertain. ‘Mill’ is at least definite, as a broad mill pond remains beside the road at this point. Figures corresponding to Finberg’s MS catalogue page numbers, which differ from Bell’s sequence, are inscribed on the verso of each sheet.
A.J. Finberg, MS addenda, [circa 1928–39], tipped into a copy of his A Complete Inventory of the Drawings of the Turner Bequest, London 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, vol.I, opposite p.357, as CXXV(b) 9.
C.F. Bell, MS addenda, [after 1928], tipped into a copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, vol.I, p.356C, as CXXVB 1.

Matthew Imms
May 2010

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