Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lecture Diagram 35: Perspective Method for a Rectangular Object (after Samuel Wale)


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 672 × 998 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCV 79

Display caption

Diagram 35 shows how to draw a simple rectangle or double cube at an oblique angle to the picture plane. Turner attributes the method to Samuel Wale, an English draughtsman, book illustrator and painter, who was the Royal Academy’s first Professor of Perspective, from 1768 to 1786.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Turner prepared Diagram 35 for Lecture 3 as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy. It illustrates how to draw a simple double cube or rectangular object at 45 degrees to the picture plane. See Diagram 36 (Tate D17050, Turner Bequest CXCV 80) for the same double cube developed into a house with basic architectural features. Turner attributes the method to Samuel Wale (?1721–1786), English draughtsman, painter and the Academy’s first Professor of Perspective (1768–86). As Wale is not known to have written any works on perspective, Turner may have had access to unpublished material.1 Maurice Davies notes that Turner omits many essential details in his description of the method, particularly in regard to locating the vanishing points or determining the correct height of the object,2 and that the diagram is also inaccurate because Turner has failed to position the vanishing points correctly. This is one of most important steps in any perspective construction, and essential for determining both the plan in perspective and the top edges of the double cube. Davies believes this may not have concerned Turner who probably felt that ‘strictly accurate perspective is not essential to a successful work of art’.3
Davies 1992, p.104 note 15.
Davies 1994, pp.110–18; Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 F folios 5 verso–8 verso and M folios 8–11 verso. See also later revisions and additions in ADD MS 46151 M folios 33–33 verso and Z folios 4, 5, 9.
Davies 1992, p.45.
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 cat’s paw-prints and an inscription by an unknown hand in pencil ‘81’ bottom left.

Andrea Fredericksen
June 2004

Revised by David Blayney Brown
January 2012

Read full Catalogue entry

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