This drawing is one of a series of studies of Kirkstall Abbey produced in November or December of 1824 during Turner’s stay at Farnley Hall. Located northwest of Leeds on the banks of the River Aire, Kirkstall Abbey was established at its present site in 1152 as a Cistercian monastery.1 It was dissolved in 1539 under the auspices of Henry VIII.
To take this sketch Turner positioned himself in the same spot he had occupied in 1797 to produce a watercolour of Kirkstall Abbey for Edward Lascelles, son of the first Earl of Harewood (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge).2 Enjoying the Viscount’s patronage, Turner stayed at Harewood House that year to undertake commissions and to conduct a first tour of the north of England. The artist was twenty-two then, and just short of fifty when he produced the present sketch.
This pencil drawing and others (Tate D18478; Turner Bequest CCX 93a and Tate D18390–D18391, D18393–D18399, D18409–D18416; Turner Bequest CCX 48–48a, 50–53, 58a–62) were also developed into a highly finished watercolour for W.B. Cooke’s Rivers of England, a print series published between 1823 and 1824 (Tate D18146; Turner Bequest CCVIII M and Tate impressions T04810, T04811, T06371).3
For other of Turner’s sketches and studies of Kirkstall Abbey see the North of England sketchbook of 1797 (Tate D00916–D00922; Turner Bequest XXXIV 10a–16); the Tweed and Lakes sketchbook of the same date (Tate D01083, D01083; Turner Bequest XXXV 2, 81); the Kirkstall sketchbook of 1808 (Tate D07258–D07273, D07278; Turner Bequest CVII 2–16, 21); and finally the Kirkstall Lock sketchbook of 1809 (Tate D12254–D12257, D12260; Turner Bequest CLV13–16, 19).
‘Kirkstall Abbey: History’, The Cistercians in Yorkshire, accessed 24 February 2015, http://cistercians
.shef .ac .uk /kirkstall /history
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.324 no.224; see also Hill 2008, p.169.
For more information see Alice Rylance-Watson, ‘‘Rivers of England’ Watercolours and Related Works c.1822–4’, March 2013, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, August 2014, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/rivers-of-england-watercolours-and-related-works-r1146362