Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lecture Diagram 18: Principles of Rectilinear Perspective (after Thomas Malton Senior)


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 674 × 1000 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCV 61

Display caption

One of Turner’s main objectives in Lecture 2 was to show the relative simplicity of the discipline. This diagram illustrates various principles of rectilinear perspective: the branch of standard, or linear, perspective dealing solely with straight lines.

While the diagram may at first sight ‘appear rather intricate,’ Turner explained that with perseverance it is in fact ‘analyzable’.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

This is the second of two diagrams shown by Turner during Lecture 2 as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy to illustrate his discussion of rectilinear perspective. Like Diagram 17 (Tate D17030; Turner Bequest CXCV 60), Diagram 18 is based on an illustration from Book II of A Compleat Treatise on Perspective in Theory and Paractice on the True Principles of Dr Brook Taylor (1775, pl.V, fig.15) by the elder Thomas Malton (1726–1801). Turner notes the complexity of the diagram, specifically its ‘multiplicity of lines’ which can only be achieved through ‘absolute and positive practice’.1
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 L folio 7. For earlier versions of related lecture material, see E folio 8 verso.
Technical notes:
Peter Bower states that the sheet is Double Elephant size Whatman paper made by William Balston, at Springfield Mill, Maidstone, Kent. The largest group within the perspective drawings, this batch of paper shows a ‘grid-like series of shadows that can be seen within the sheet in transmitted light. This appears to have been caused by a trial method of supporting the woven wire mould cover on the mould’. Because this is the only batch he has seen with such a feature, Bower believes that ‘it may have been tried on one pair of moulds and for some reason never tried again’. He also writes that it is ‘not the best Whatman paper by any means; the weight of this group is also very variable and the moulds have not been kept clean during use’.1
Notes in Tate catalogue files.
Blank, save for an inscription by an unknown hand in pencil ‘63’ bottom left.

Andrea Fredericksen
June 2004

Supported by The Samuel H. Kress Foundation

Revised by David Blayney Brown
January 2012

Read full Catalogue entry

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