Joseph Mallord William Turner

High Force, River Tees, with a Figure Seated at the Top of the Falls

1816

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 173 × 260 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D11534
Turner Bequest CXLVIII 8 a

Catalogue entry

This view is taken from the top of High Force on the upper reaches of the River Tees, looking down the main fall. A seated figure, at lower left, is possibly sketching, and given that a draughtsman appears in another sketch of High Force from the same visit in the Yorkshire 4 sketchbook (Tate D11496; Turner Bequest CXLVII 34), it seems possible that Turner had an artistic companion for this part of the tour. Both must have been imbued with a sense of adventure, for to reach this viewpoint they would have had to leap across the stream leading to the north-west of the twin falls at High Force. This is by far the lesser of the two streams, but nonetheless offers scope for a disastrous tumble. The view looks east to a conspicuous nick on the distant skyline. This is Coldberry Gutter, a large gash or ‘Hush’ on Hardberry Hill where a lead vein was excavated using floodwater from a reservoir. The present writer has dated Turner’s sketches at High Force to Saturday 3 August 1816.

David Hill
May 2009

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