Joseph Mallord William Turner

Figures Engaged in Sexual Activity

1845

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 86 × 111 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D35495
Turner Bequest CCCLXI 5

Catalogue entry

There are at least two drawings here, the one towards the gutter apparently being made with the page turned vertically and separated by a pencil line. Although ‘barely resolved’, it ‘could show two bodies, one of which may be about to straddle the erect penis of the other recumbent figure’, as Ian Warrell has noted.1 James Hamilton observes of the artist that ‘at seventy his creative sexual appetite did not desert him; there are drawings of female genitalia and copulation’2 in this sketchbook, the former being on folio 2 recto (D35489).
Among Turner’s occasional erotic sketches, the slightness of the coupling figures here is perhaps most comparable with those in a long sequence in the rather earlier Academy Auditing sketchbook, for example Tate D18513 (Turner Bequest CCX a 32).
1
Warrell 2003, p.43.
2
Hamilton 1997, p.301.
Technical notes:
There is some brown staining at the edge, possibly indicating water damage in the 1928 Tate flood.

Matthew Imms
September 2016

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