Joseph Mallord William Turner

Composition Studies for a Painting; North Berwick Law; and Caroline Park


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 114 × 187 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CC 89

Catalogue entry

This page, used with the sketchbook inverted, contains studies for two connected oil sketches known as Italian Landscape with Tower, Trees and Figures (Tate N02992) and Overlooking the Coast, with Classical Buildings (Tate N02991) (see folio 88 verso; D17665 for more information).1 The studies combine compositional elements from paintings by Claude Lorrain (circa 1604/5–82) that Turner saw in Rome in 1819 and Paris in 1821, with recent French landscape sketches. The largest sketch on this page relates to the intersection of the two oil sketches (which join to form a continuous picture) with the leaning tree at the far left of Tower, Trees and Figures and the more upright tree to its left that continues at the right of Italian Landscape. To the left of the trees in the pencil sketch are several faint blocky shapes that became the distant tower and aqueduct of Arcueil in the oil and between the two trees are a group of figures that also appear in Italian Landscape, though moved to the left. The picture may therefore show a French rather than Italian Landscape (see Turner’s sketch of Arcueil: Tate D24525; Turner Bequest CCLVIII 13a).
Beneath this design is a smaller thumbnail composition that may show a variation of the two-canvas composition with faint signs of architecture between the trees; and at the bottom right is the continuation of a full page sketch on folio 88 verso, with trees and foreground architectural elements.
There are two further unconnected compositions on the page at the top right, drawn with the sketchbook turned to the right. These are subjects drawn on the visit to Edinburgh in 1822. The top one shows a view along the coast with North Berwick Law at the right and was probably made on Turner’s return journey (see folios 78 verso, 80; D17645, D17648). Beneath this is a view of the Firth of Forth seen through the trees with the islands of ‘Inchkeith’ from Granton with ‘Caroline P[ar]k’ at the right. There is a very similar view on the inside back cover of this sketchbook (Tate D40688). Judging by their thumbnail format these may be compositional studies based on previous sketches rather than sketches from life.

Thomas Ardill
November 2008

Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.177–8 nos. 307, 306.

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