Joseph Mallord William Turner

Drawing of the Clyde


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 185 × 260 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXVI U

Catalogue entry

Etching and mezzotint by J.M.W. Turner and Charles Turner, ‘Drawing of the CLYDE. In the possession of J.M.W. Turner.’, published Charles Turner, 29 March 1809
Turner based his Liber Studiorum design on a large watercolour, The Fall of the Clyde, Lanarkshire: Noon. – vide Akenside’s Hymn to the Naiads, which he had exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1802 (336), which, as indicated by the lettering on the engraving, remained in his possession in 1809 (Walker Art Gallery (National Museums Liverpool) 864).1 The setting was derived from pencil and watercolour studies from the Smaller Fonthill sketchbook (some sheets at Tate; Turner Bequest XLVIII), now at the National Gallery of Scotland, the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Indianapolis Museum of Art;2 several other Liber designs were derived from the same book: Coast of Yorkshire, Rivaux Abbey and Dumblain Abbey, Scotland (Tate D08129, D08154, D08157; Turner Bequest CXVII B, Z, CXVIII C), and Solway Moss.3
Turner had visited the site near Lanark on his first tour of Scotland in 1801. The composition of the watercolour and the Liber design is deceptively simple, however, as its overt subject of women bathing by the falls is underpinned by the reference to the poem by Mark Akenside (1721–1770), dense with references to classical mythology but also to the modern world (for instance, the Thames and the Medway), expounding the relevance of the ‘nymphs, who preside over springs and rivulets’ (and other natural phenomena) contributing ‘to the fullness of navigable rivers, and consequently to the maintenance of commerce; and by that means, to the maritime part of military power.’4 As a more immediately visual image, Turner may have had in mind Akenside’s lines on the nymphs, under
Some grotto’s dripping arch, at height of noon
To slumber, shelter’d from the burning heaven.5
Akenside also provided notes on the way the surrounding atmosphere, heated by the sun, is affected by the differences in temperature and motion of rivers and steams,6 thus enabling Turner to address both naturalistic and allegorical aspects.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.339 no.343, reproduced.
Ibid., p.336, respectively nos.322, 323, 324, all reproduced.
Rawlinson 1878, pp.107–8 no.52; 1906, pp.125–8 no.52; Finberg 1924, pp.205–8 no.52.
‘Argument’ of Akenside’s Hymn to the Naiads, quoted in Wilton and Turner 1990, p.131; see also Wilton 1980, p.110
Hymn, lines 20–1; see also lines 45–50 as quoted in John Gage, Colour in Turner: Poetry and Truth, London, 1969, p.144.
Also quoted in Gage 1969, p.144
Forrester 1996, pp.160–1 (transcribed).
Finberg 1924, p.xliii; Forrester 1996, pp.13–14.
Forrester 1996, p.161 (transcribed).
Rawlinson 1878, pp.40–9; 1906, pp.49–58; Finberg 1924, pp.65–84.
[John Ward] ed., Frederick Wedmore, Frank Short and others, The South Kensington Drawing-Book. A Selection from the Liber Studiorum of J.M.W. Turner, R.A. for Artists, Art Students, and Amateurs. A Drawing-Book Suggested by the Writings of Mr. Ruskin..., London [1890], opposite p.22.
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.300–1 no.510, pl.512 (colour).
Gage 1969, p.143.
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files.
Rawlinson 1878, p.42.

Matthew Imms
August 2009

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