Joseph Mallord William Turner

?Gloucester Cathedral (‘The Distant Tower: Evening’)


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 161 × 243 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 246

Catalogue entry

This composition is close in composition and mood to a larger watercolour study which is the direct source for the ‘Little Liber’ mezzotint traditionally known as Gloucester Cathedral (Tate D25430; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 307).1 While Gerald Wilkinson recognised this connection, he doubted the subject: ‘It strikes me as a midland town with a parish church. The colours, of evening or early morning, are consistent with a smoky atmosphere.’2 For James Hamilton’s interpretation of the composition as a distant view of Warwick,3 see under D25430. A third watercolour (Tate D25334; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 212) seems to be a variation on the same idea, and has been included in the present ‘Little Liber’ section.
See Butlin, Wilton and Gage 1974, p.95.
Wilkinson 1975, p.119.
Hamilton 1997, p.255, mentioning the present work, and elsewhere.
Technical notes:
The work appears to have once formed part of a larger sheet, as there appear to be darkened fold lines along the top below the irregularly cut edge, bisecting the ‘J Whatman | Turkey Mills’ watermark and cutting off the last two digits of the date, leaving only ‘18’. The trace of blue watercolour along this edge possibly belongs to another composition, possibly held elsewhere in the Turner Bequest but not matched as yet.
Blank, save for being inscribed in pencil ‘60’ above and to right of centre; stamped in black ‘[Turner Bequest monogram] | CCLXIII – 246’ bottom left and inscribed in pencil ‘D25368’ below. There are isolated abrasions towards the top right.

Matthew Imms
November 2011

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