This is a large study based on a page in the Tweed and Lakes sketchbook (Tate D01084; Turner Bequest XXXV 82). It has been assumed to have been made in preparation for the finished watercolour that Turner executed for Joseph Farington (private collection).1 Hill points out that Farington’s Views in the Lakes &c of Cumberland and Westmorland had been published in 1789, and may have been one of the stimuli for Turner’s own tour; he was also in the habit of seeking Farington’s advice on matters to do with the Royal Academy, and was to solicit his support in his application for Associateship in 1799. Another example of a watercolour painted specifically as a present in return for favours is the view of Durham (Royal Academy, London)2 developed from the Tweed and Lakes book (Tate D01018; Turner Bequest XXXV 15), which was made for John Hoppner, another of Turner’s supporters for the Associateship; and see Tate D01117 (Turner Bequest XXXVI W).
According to Farington himself,3 it was Robert Smirke who selected the Derwentwater view for him, while also choosing a subject for himself. Turner noted Farington’s subject by inscribing the latter’s name on the back of the leaf. Accordingly, the finished watercolour is inscribed ‘To Joseph Farington Esqre with W Turner’s Respects’. It is also signed and dated ‘Keswick Augt 1801’, which, Hill suggests, indicates another visit to the Lakes, probably on Turner’s return from the Scottish Highlands in that year.
Hill proposes that the finished watercolour for Farington was actually executed on the spot, and that a further study (Tate D01103; Turner Bequest XXXVI I) was made at the same time. The date would fit in with the likely sequence of events, that is to say, from Turner’s election in November 1799 to his offer of a watercolour to Farington, which he completed in the course of the following year. The evidence, although fairly persuasive, needs to be accepted with caution, however, since the execution of a finished work while on tour would be exceptional, almost unthinkable, in Turner’s normal working practice, and is particularly unlikely given the length of Turner’s Scottish tour and the late stage of it at which he reached Keswick. The date on Farington’s picture also opens up the question of whether the present study was in fact made with that watercolour in mind, since it is clearly a work of about the same time as the North of England tour, having much the same palette and handling as the partially coloured sketchbook sheet. This would suggest that he was planning a finished work some time before Smirke made Farington’s selection for him.