Joseph Mallord William Turner

Landscape with a River and Figures: Boat-building


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Support: 140 × 216 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XLIII 46 a

Catalogue entry

Finberg suggested that this evocative study, made with the page turned horizontally, might be a copy after Richard Wilson (1713–1782); that seems less likely than his alternative proposal that it is a study for a picture of Turner’s own.1 It is intriguing in its suggestion of an elaborately imagined world, perhaps of ancient times, in which men are working on the construction of exotic, gondola-like craft. The landscape itself, however, seems to relate to other studies in this book, notably that on folio 41 verso (D01858; Turner Bequest XLIII 40a), where only the distant line of hills and a foreground tree are indicated.
A pencil drawing in the 1799 Lancashire and North Wales sketchbook (Tate D01937; Turner Bequest XLV 19a) may be the origin of the view, which would appear from its context to be a scene in North Wales, perhaps near Traeth Mawr. Compare also the large study or unfinished watercolour (Tate D04165; Turner Bequest LXX N), which is apparently one of Turner’s trial compositions for the pair of subjects illustrating the destruction of the Welsh Bards, on which he was working in 1799–1800.

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

Finberg 1909, I, p.106.

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