Joseph Mallord William Turner

Inscription by Turner: Notes on Painting in Relation to Poetry

c.1809

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Pen and ink on paper
Dimensions
Support: 115 × 88 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D07439
Turner Bequest CVIII 49

Catalogue entry

About the central third of the page is taken up with the following notes:
but cannot [?atract] quality of motion: the | great Poet of nature Thomson in his Summer | a line beyond delineation and yet most truly drawn | When from the bladed field the Hare limps awkward | and the wild deer gaze at early passengers | Rous’d by the cock the soon clad shepherd leaves | His peacefull cottage1
These notes are part of a sequence beginning at folio 53 verso (see entry for D07448) and continuing back through the sketchbook. This passage continues in mid-sentence from the verso of the present leaf (D07440); the last page of the sequence is folio 48 verso, opposite (D07438).
Jerrold Ziff has read the third word as ‘attache’, and ‘line’ as ‘time’, which seems persuasive given the temporal sense of the poetry.2 Turner is either quoting from memory or adapting a passage early in James Thomson’s Summer (1727), from The Seasons:
And from the bladed field the fearful hare
Limps, awkward: while along the forest-glade
The wild deer trip, and often turning gaze
At early passenger. ...
Roused by the cock, the soon-clad shepherd leaves
His mossy cottage, where with Peace he dwells...
This must have been well-known to him, both from his general familiarity with Thomson3 and from his use of the passage a few lines on – beginning ‘But yonder comes the powerful King of Day’ – as the text for his watercolour of Norham Castle4 in the 1798 Royal Academy exhibition catalogue. Jack Lindsay has described Turner responding here to Thomson’s ‘new dynamic intensity of image’.5

Matthew Imms
June 2008

1
See Wilton and Turner 1990, pp.137–8 (transcription, followed here with slight variations); see also Lindsay 1966, pp.240–1.
2
Ziff 1964, p.198.
3
See Lindsay 1966, p.241; and Wilton and Turner 1990, pp.47–61.
4
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.324 no.225 (probably the exhibited version rather than no.226, under which Thomson is quoted (p.325)).
5
Lindsay 1966, p.58.

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