Joseph Mallord William Turner

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


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 173 × 260 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
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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