Joseph Mallord William Turner

Inscription by Turner: Notes on Sunlight

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
D07493
Turner Bequest CVIII 82 a

Catalogue entry

The whole page is taken up with the following notes:
This holds good in viewing remote Bodies | in light and shade as at distance: | altho the rules of light and shade enforces | the nearer shadow to be the strongest it | not prove so but depends much upon | the distance of the object casting shadow | and not always that which is nearest | the Eye – a Building shall receive the | sun rays and the shadow of any | objects at a considerable distance hence | it becomes less [?directed ...] strength | but that building will make a positive | shadow upon the adjoining building – | positive and strong the shadows of | the [?first will] longer from the distance | they will stretch but the last will be | positive appears parallel and strong
This passage follows on from folio 83 verso (D07495) and is the last page of the sequence running back through the sketchbook from folio 91 verso (D07511). John Gage has discussed these provisional notes (not developed in the perspective lectures) as an example of Turner’s close observation of natural phenomena,1 in this case the question of sunlight travelling in parallel lines or otherwise, responding to a chapter of The Art of Painting by Gérard de Lairesse (1640–1711), in the English translation by John Frederick Frisch (London 1738 and later editions).2 See under D07511 for a discussion of Lairesse’s text.
Maurice Davies has registered the whole section as ‘on light and shadow’, and has grouped the part specified by Gage with other notes as part of a longer sequence running back to folio 72 verso (D07473); folios 81 verso (D07491) and 79 verso (D07487) are the next relevant pages.3

Matthew Imms
June 2008

1
Gage 1969, p.252 note 217.
2
Ibid., p.178, as ‘TB CVIII, pp. 99a–82a’ (first folio actually 91a); see also Davies 1992, pp.51, 108 note 85.
3
Davies 1994, p.289.

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