As John Ruskin recognised1 and recorded on its verso in the course of his early cataloguing work on the Turner Bequest, this is a loose ‘colour beginning’ for a watercolour (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam) painted for Turner’s great friend and patron Walter Fawkes of Farnley (see David Hill’s Introduction to this section), which Ruskin himself later owned.2 The finished work has been titled and dated with slight variations, most recently by Hill as Farnley Hall from Otley Chevin, of about 1816,3 although it could be from a year or two later; it shows the distant house on an open hillside above a misty valley beyond a foreground of goats perched among conifers and rocks, ‘with something of an Alpine appearance’.4
Hill recognised the source of the composition as a three-page pencil drawing in the Hastings sketchbook (Tate D10404, D10406, D10407; Turner Bequest CXXXIX 39a, 40a, 41), dated by David Blayney Brown in the present catalogue to c.1816–17. The view is also recorded in the Large Farnley sketchbook of about 1816 (Tate D09056; Turner Bequest CXXVIII 40), and noted in Hill’s entry for that page as ‘taken from the mid-slopes of the Great Dib south and very slightly west of Otley Church’, looking north-east over the valley of the Wharfe.
The work employs very liquid washes of strong colour, and at first glance gives more the impression of a rocky coastal bay than a valley scene. David Hill has noted it ‘suggests that Turner adopted a much brighter, more luminous palette at about this time’:
The use of brilliant red, blue, green and yellow in this particular example is not much in evidence ... before this date. The effect on Turner’s finished pictures is apparent in the watercolour for which this was made, with its marvellous sense of mist and atmosphere, and light subtle touches of bright colour.5
See also Finberg 1909, I, p.600, Hill 1980, p.37, Upstone 1990, p.3, and Hill 2008, p.72.
E.T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn eds., Library Edition: The Works of John Ruskin: Volume XIII: Turner: The Harbours of England; Catalogues and Notes, London 1904, pp.431–2 (Fine Art Society catalogue, 1878) no.24, as ‘Farnley’.
Hill 2008, p.73 as c.1816, ill.62 (colour); Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.371 no.613, as ‘Farnley Hall, from above Otley’, c.1815; see also Finberg 1909, I, p.600, as ‘Wharfedale, from the Chevin’, and Hill 1980, p.36 no.41, as ‘Wharfedale with Farnley Hall, from the West Chevin’, c.1818’
Hill 1980, p.36 no.41.
Wilton 1979, p.371 no.617, reproduced.