Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lecture Diagram: Showing Picture-Plane, Position of Spectator, Etc


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 482 × 602 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCV 1

Catalogue entry

Prepared in connection with his lectures as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy, Turner’s diagram is based on a plate from Dr Brook Taylor’s Method of Perspective Made Easy; both in Theory and Practice: in Two Books (London 1768, vol.II, pl.I, fig.1) by John Joshua Kirby (1716–74). Turner paraphrases portions of the related text in two different manuscripts. The first appears in a manuscript used for lecturing, perhaps in 1819.1 Another passage appears in a manuscript which Maurice Davies believes ‘may have been used to support other lecture texts when examples of perspective were required. It is almost certainly later than 1821 as many of the related diagrams are on paper watermarked 1823’.2 This second passage on ‘definitions and axioms’ begins a section describing a wide variety of methods of perspective, which Davies believes to be a later, extended version of Turner’s history of perspective techniques. Here Turner defines point of sight, original object, vanishing line, vanishing point, plane and many other terms.
See also Tate D D16971; Turner Bequest CXCV 2.
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, c.1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 Z folios 2–5. On the lecture manuscript, see Maurice William Davies, ‘J.M.W. Turner’s Approach to Perspective in His Royal Academy Lectures of 1811’, unpublished Ph.D thesis, Courtauld Institute of Art, London 1994, p.279.
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, c.1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 AA folios 5, 5 verso; Davies 1994, p.280. See also John Gage, Colour in Turner: Poetry and Truth, London 1969, p.249 note 170 for a claim that MS AA may have been the first lecture of 1821.
Technical notes:
Peter Bower writes that sheet is Royal size J WHATMAN | 1816 paper made by William Balston, at Springfield Mill, Maidstone, Kent.1
Notes in Tate catalogue files.
Blank, save for an inscription by an unknown hands in pencil ‘T.L. 437’ top left and ‘30’ bottom right.

Andrea Fredericksen
June 2004

Supported by The Samuel H. Kress Foundation

Revised by David Blayney Brown
January 2012

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