Joseph Mallord William Turner

Heavy Clouds over a Landscape


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 240 × 345 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 330

Technique and condition

Catalogue entry

This study of heavy cloud rolling over a dark, featureless landscape may have originally shared something of the dramatic effect of Tate D25460 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 337), which is in much better condition; the present work is badly faded as discussed in the technical notes below. Compare also the lowering sky in the ‘Little Liber’ colour study Paestum, of about 1823–6 (Tate D36070; Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 224).
Technical notes:
The freshness and intensity of the cool, dark blue-grey colours round the edges, formerly protected by a mount (fitted slightly askew to compensate for Turner’s not quite level horizon), are in stark contrast with the irreparable severe fading to browns and pinks at the centre from years of light exposure during the prolonged touring of the Turner Bequest’s Second Loan Collection; Finberg’s only comment in 1909 was a laconic ‘Blue faded’.1 Eric Shanes has suggested that further damage may have been sustained in the 1928 Tate Gallery flood.2
In 2011 the work was shown in somewhat more controlled conditions in the ‘Watercolour + Colour: Exploring the medium’ section of Tate Britain’s Watercolour exhibition as a prime example of the dangers inherent in the conservation and display of works on paper.
Finberg 1909, II, p.840; see also Warrell 1991, p.44.
See Shanes 1997, p.102.
Blank; there is some scattered brown staining.

Matthew Imms
March 2016

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