Joseph Mallord William Turner

Clouds and Rain over Water


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 307 × 487 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 80

Display caption

The Turner Bequest includes more than four hundred watercolours sketches which have been catalogued as 'Colour Beginnings' (i.e TB CCLXIII). While some of these works have been identified as preparatory ideas, or 'beginnings', for other pictures, many are actually studies of the sky, such as this memorandum of a group of rolling cumulus. Turner is unlikely to have painted these out of doors, and most probably produced them in batches in his studio, using them as a means of testing his skills in watercolour.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

This study appears to show various phases of clouds and rain passing over water, with blue sky opening up beyond.
Technical notes:
The bright white edges of the clouds towards the top right have been lifted out or possibly masked before the application of the local colour. The top quarter or so is noticeably darker and richer in colour, suggesting that the initial washes below this band were lifted with broad sweeps of a brush, leaving a definite but irregular division. The washes in the central portion are in general paler and more diffuse. Andrew Wilton has addressed these effects in some detail:
Turner’s habit of preparing his paper with horizontal strips of colour can be observed in this sheet. The upper, blue strip was evidently allowed to become much dryer than the lower ones which merge into each other. Wiping-out with the end of the brush-handle is used to make highlights on the upper surface of the clouds.1
Wilton 1975, p.58.
Blank; inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘AB 150 P’ bottom right; inscribed in pencil ‘CCLXIII. 80’ bottom right; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CCLXIII – 80’ bottom left.
The sheet has darkened somewhat at the edges.

Matthew Imms
March 2016

Read full Catalogue entry


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