Joseph Mallord William Turner

?Llanthony Abbey


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 305 × 497 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 14

Catalogue entry

This colour study may relate to the finished watercolour Llanthony Abbey, Monmouthshire of about 1834 (Indianapolis Museum of Art),1 engraved in 1836 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impression: T06118). The ruined priory itself, towards the right in the middle distance in the latter, is not apparent here, and the identification was suggested rather tentatively by Andrew Wilton in terms of the colour study’s ‘strong, slanting shafts of colour’,2 corresponding to the stormy light effects in the watercolour, and mentioned by him subsequently in conversation with Peter Bower.3
Turner sketched the view northwards across the Honddu River, north of Abergavenny, in 1792 (Tate D00135; Turner Bequest XII F), and made some closely related watercolours in the course of the next two years (private collection;4 Indianapolis Museum of Art;5 Tate D00679; Turner Bequest XXVII R).
Finberg compared this sheet with ‘No.35’6 (i.e. Tate D25157; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 35), which he called ‘The wooded river banks’; it too has an effect of diagonal sunbeams from the top right, although it is not close compositionally in other respects, and Shanes has suggested it shows Lake Tiny, near Farnley Hall, Yorkshire.7
See also the introductions to the present subsection of identified subjects and the overall England and Wales ‘colour beginnings’ grouping to which this work has been assigned.
Wilton 1979, p.401 no.863, pl.198.
Ibid., pp.187, 191 note 30.
Bower 1990, pp.124, 125 note 3; see also Shanes 1997, pp.95, 104.
Wilton 1979, p.308 no.66, reproduced.
Ibid. under no.66, as apparently a copy.
Finberg 1909, II, p.815.
Shanes 1997, pp.103, 104.
Technical notes:
Bower has identified this as one half of a sheet of machine-made printing paper of ‘Sheet and a half Post Folio’ format (23 ½ x 19 ½ inches, or 596 x 495 mm), made by Richard Elliott at Chesham Bois Mill, Buckinghamshire, hence Turner’s inscription ‘Elliotts paper’. The torn edge at the top matches the bottom edge of a colour study of The Crimson Clouds (Tate D25292; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 170), which bears a similar inscription. Bower suggests that the sheet was made in about 1810, a very early date for machine-made paper, and ‘so far’ the only such early sheet identified in the Turner Bequest; Turner’s use of it may have been experimental, and it probably proved not to meet his need for the ‘subtle character and qualities’ he found in hand-made papers.1 Eric Shanes proposes that the present half may have been used for testing ‘deep tones’, and the Crimson Clouds half for ‘rich colours’.2
Bower 1990, p.124; see also Shanes 1997, pp.95, 100.
Shanes 1997, p.31.

Matthew Imms
March 2013

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