Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lecture Diagram 41: Perspective Construction of a Tuscan Column


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Pen and ink on paper
Support: 680 × 484 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCV 90

Technique and condition

This image on white wove Whatman was the second copy of two images made by a copying process which Turner used to generate a limited number of copies from other lecture diagrams. The surviving original was a drawing of one column of the same dimensions (Tate D17061; Turner Bequest CXCV 91), and the upper copy was used to illustrate realistic rendering of a rounded column, using a graded watercolour wash (Tate D17058; Turner Bequest CXCV 88).
Turner needed several copies so that he could if he chose illustrate the drawing of a single element such as a column alone, then later with perspectival lines going to a single point, or built up to a colonnade of identical columns, or used to illustrate the way to make a column look three-dimensional by shading, He could also use such a colonnade to form an entire elevation of the building. The process seems to have involved placing a blank sheet on a table, overlaying double-sided copying paper, followed by another blank sheet, another sheet of double-sided copying paper, and the image to be copied. Then he pressed down hard on each ruled line of the top copy with a sharp tool run against a ruler, and unpacked the paper stack to reveal one good and one pale copy, with little smudging on the ‘good’ side. If necessary, he strengthened straight lines in the copies, which would both be identical and not reversed, and then he hand-applied the curved elements freehand as necessary and/or painted the lines to make them bold enough to demonstrate to a large audience in a room lit artificially.
Sets of copies identified thus far include: Building in Perspective (Tate D17051; Turner Bequest CXCV 81) which is an upper copy of a lost original and A House in Perspective, Lecture Diagram 36 (D17052; CXCV 82), and Building (D17053; CXCV 83) which are both lower copies of comparable originals; Tracing of Guiding Lines of Diagram of Capital, Tuscan Entablature Worked Out in Perspective (D17077; CXCV 107) which was used as the original for the copies Capital, Tuscan Entablature Worked Out in Perspective (D17076; CXCV 106) and Tuscan Entablature (D17079; CXCV 109); two top copies now called Tracing of Guiding Lines (D17132; CXCV 161) and Classical Columns (D17142; CXCV 171) of a lost original and another copy Part of Classical Buildings, with Columns (D17141; CXCV 170) of the same subject, and the set discussed here.

Joyce Townsend
March 2011

Catalogue entry

Diagram 41 was prepared by Turner for Lecture 3 as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy. Presented as part of his discussion of the architectural orders and their component parts, it is a perspective construction of the Tuscan column depicted in Diagram 40 (Tate D17058; Turner Bequest CXCV 88). The guiding lines of both were traced from a preparatory drawing (Tate D17061, see also Tate D40004 and D40003). Turner explains that ‘after determining the hight [sic] of the horizontal line, the base line and vanishing points, a scale to work the measures should be made proportionate to enable the paper to contain the intended column’.1
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 M folio 13 verso, 15.
Technical Notes:
Peter Bower states that the sheet is Super Royal size Whatman paper made by William Balston and Finch and Thomas Robert Hollingworth at Turkey Mill, Maidstone, Kent. Bower writes that ‘all sheets in this batch have some streaking across the sheet, probably from a fault in the sizing’.1
Notes in Tate catalogue files.
Blank, save for an inscription by an unknown hand in pencil ‘91’ top 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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