Technique and condition
This composition of pencil, watercolour and gouache was executed on white wove paper watermarked ‘HAYES & WISE 1799’. There is preliminary sketching under the paint of this composition. The horses are outlined in pencil and their legs and spines have been shaded. They were then filled in using drops of wet paint; less care has been taken with the horses’ faces. The background was painted last and care was taken to paint right up to the edges of the horses, which lends support to the idea that the animals were not actually painted by Turner, though the rest of the image was. Pigments used include ochres and Mars orange, black, and possibly indigo.
As Finberg was the first to suggest, this watercolour was almost certainly the collaboration with Turner’s fellow Academician Sawrey Gilpin (1753–1807) shown at the Royal Academy in 1811, four years after Gilpin’s death. If so, the landscape is by Turner, the horses are by Gilpin and the work must have been started in 1805 or 1806. Gilpin had worked with a number of other artists including Johann Zoffany, George Barret and Philip Reinagle. Despite Turner’s reputation in later life for being more competitive than collaborative, he completed at least one other watercolour with Gilpin, Sunny Morning, the Cattle by S. Gilpin, R.A. exhibited at the Academy in 1799 (currently untraced)1 while another joint effort, Donkeys beside a Mine Shaft (Tate D04160; Turner Bequest LXX I), was left unfinished.
Gilpin had supported Turner’s first attempt to become an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1798. The exhibition in 1811 of a joint work was doubtless a delayed memorial to Gilpin and a gesture of loyalty to the Academy in the year Turner began lecturing as its Professor of Perspective. Moreover, as John Gage has argued, it signalled support for recent attempts by the President, Benjamin West, to repeal the rule banning artists who worked exclusively in watercolour from election as Academicians.2 West admired the new generation of specialist watercolourists like Thomas Heaphy and thought that the rise of the ‘exhibition watercolour’ and competition from the Society of Painters in Watercolour (founded in 1804) made the Academy’s rule obsolete. Turner did not show at the Society and had not sent any watercolours to the Academy since 1804, preferring to show them at his own gallery. By returning to the Academy in 1811 with a joint work with Gilpin and four other watercolours in a range of currently fashionable styles, he demonstrated that the Society did not have the monopoly of such works.