Joseph Mallord William Turner

More Park, near Watford, on the River Colne


Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache and watercolour on paper
Support: 158 × 221 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCVIII H

Catalogue entry

A pencil sketch, inscribed ‘More Park’ or ‘For More Park’, was presumably used as a basis for this watercolour drawing and occurs in the River sketchbook of about 1807 (Tate D06071; Turner Bequest XCVI 76). It is also suggested that the study of foliage on folio 2 of the same sketchbook is related to that in the lower right-hand corner of the watercolour drawing (Tate D05962; Turner Bequest XCVI 2).
Eric Shanes writes that the More Park estate was ‘enclosed by Henry VI in 1426’. The ‘house itself was built during the reign of Edward IV by George Nevil and was owned at one time by Cardinal Wolsey’.1 In the centre, atop the crest of the hills in the distance, the entrance façade of house with its four-column portico comes faintly into view. The building owed its appearance to James Thornhill, better known for his work as a decorative painter. The owner of the house, the wealthy South Sea Company merchant Benjamin Styles, commissioned Thornhill to remodel it in a Palladian style, engaging Capability Brown to landscape the grounds.2
The body of water in the foreground is the Grand Union Canal at Lot Mead Lock, the Colne river flowing behind and beyond the Lock gates. There is a rough pencil jotting of the Lock in Turner’s River sketchbook of about 1807 (Tate D06020; Turner Bequest XCVI 49). The shallow ‘V’ shape made by the wooden lock, Eric Shanes notes, is recreated in the shapes of the sloping hills above it.3 A recumbent man and woman extend their fishing rods lethargically into the waters at the far left of the foreground. A solitary figure, perhaps the lock-keeper, perches atop the wooded lock with his back turned away from the viewer looking towards a small herd of cattle.
Anne Lyles writes that the drawing displays ‘Turner’s mastery of atmospheric effect’: the shafts of light which burst through rain-heavy grey cloud, the simulation of dampness in the air following rainfall.4 This point is elaborated on by Shanes who writes that ‘as a result of the downpour, the forms of the faraway trees are still slightly blurred by atmospheric moisture, whereas the trees on the extreme right and the dock leaves in the foreground are all crystal clear’.5
Shanes 1990, p.104 pl.79 (colour).
Anne Lyles and Diane Perkins, Colour into Line: Turner and the Art of Engraving, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1989, p.54 under 42.
Shanes 1990, p.104, no.79 (colour).
Lyles and Perkins 1989, p.54 under 42.
Eric Shanes, Turner: The Life and Masterworks, New York 2004, p.116–7 reproduced (colour).

Alice Rylance-Watson
March 2013

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