Joseph Mallord William Turner



In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 212 × 290 mm
Bequeathed by Henry Vaughan 1900
Turner Bequest CXVIII I

Catalogue entry

Purchased from Henry Dawe by Charles Stokes by 1848, 15 guineas
Bequeathed by Stokes to Hannah Cooper, 1853
Henry Vaughan by 1878
Etching and mezzotint by Turner and Henry Dawe, untitled, published Turner, 1 January 1819
The topographical source of Turner’s classicised Liber Studiorum design was recognised by Rawlinson in the second edition of his Liber catalogue;1 his visual identification has subsequently been confirmed by the examination of Turner’s own Liber lists (see below). The composition had previously been speculatively linked to two riverside sites a few miles further up the Thames – Pope’s Villa at Twickenham, the 1807 demolition of which had been painted by Turner,2 and David Garrick’s octagonal Ionic ‘temple’ in honour of Shakespeare, at Hampton, which still stands.3 Stopford Brooke noted: ‘Part of the sentiment of the plate is that which has collected for many generations round the Thames near London – the sentiment, if we may call it so, of contented opulence, of settled life, of unravished quiet. ... Wealth speaks from every part of the landscape.’4
The composition had a particular, albeit unpublicised, significance for the artist. It shows the domed, Ionic boathouse-pavilion by Robert Mylne, built or completed in 18035 at the corner of the Duke of Northumberland’s Syon Park estate to the west of London, looking up the Thames to the riverfront at Isleworth; Turner moved here temporarily two years later, renting Syon Ferry House (later demolished) between the boathouse, sometimes called the Alcove, and the church.6 The tree and low walls to the left of the pavilion appear to be those depicted in Turner’s sketches of the slipway in front of Ferry House, the corner of which may itself also be represented,7 and building beyond has been identified as the ‘London Apprentice’ public house.8
As Edward Croft-Murray has noted, Turner may have deliberately adapted the appearance of the rotunda to evoke the famous circular Temple of the Sibyl (or Vesta) at Tivoli,9 silently omitting the flanking wings of the Isleworth building, which he had recorded in two of a series of semi-idealised studies in the 1805 Wey, Guildford sketchbook (Tate D06195–D06198; Turner Bequest XCVIII 11–14), and in a watercolour study in the Hesperides (1) sketchbook (Tate D05784; Turner Bequest XCIII 11). Similar riverside rotundas appear in slight drawings in the Thames, from Reading to Walton sketchbook (Tate D05915; Turner Bequest XCV 11) and the Studies for Pictures, Isleworth sketchbook (Tate D05494; Turner Bequest XC 3, ff.), where there are also views of Ferry House and the pavilion from the opposite bank (D05528, D05602; XC 27, 72a), and an apparent variation on the pavilion (D05574; XC 53).
Rawlinson 1906, pp.149–50.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.55–6 no.72, pl.82 (colour).
Garrick’s Temple to Shakespeare, accessed 17 May 2006,
Brooke 1885, pp.214–15.
Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, London 3: North West, The Buildings of England, London 1991, p.445, as 1803; David Hill, Turner on the Thames: River Journeys in the Year 1805, New Haven and London 1993, p.173 note 8, as 1780s; see also pp.26, 122, 124.
For this period in general, see Hill 1993.
Ibid., p.124.
Wilton 1987, p.76; see also Wilton and Turner 1990, p.139.
Edward Croft-Murray, Turner Watercolors from The British Museum: A Loan Exhibition Circulated by the Smithsonian Institution, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC 1963, p.16.
Forrester 1996, p.125 and note 4.
Hill 1993, p.124.
Forrester 1996, p.125.
Ibid., pp.161–3 (transcribed).
Ibid., p.163 (transcribed).
Rawlinson 1878, pp.126–34; Rawlinson 1906, pp.148–58; Finberg 1924, pp.245–64.
Forrester 1996, p.125; ‘Cooper Notebooks’, circa 1853–8, vol.II, p.6 no.1 in Krause 1997, p.267.
Rawlinson 1878, p.128.
Forrester 1996, p.125 and note 4 (analysis by Peter Bower, acknowledged p.8).
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files.
Finberg 1910, p.81.

Matthew Imms
August 2008

Frits Lugt, Les Marques de collections de dessins & d’estampes ..., Amsterdam 1921, p.515 no.2758, reproduced.

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