Joseph Mallord William Turner

Mortham Tower, near Rokeby and the River Tees


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 125 × 206 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXLVII 25

Catalogue entry

The present sketch is taken from near the right bank of the River Tees, and records the view of Mortham Tower at the top left, panning far enough to the right to include the junction of the Tees with the River Greta. The present writer has dated Turner’s visit to Mortham Tower to Wednesday 31 July 1816, when he also sketched a closer view of the building in the Yorkshire 2 sketchbook (Tate D11212; Turner Bequest CXLV 105a). Turner revisited the subject in 1831 in the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border sketchbook (Tate D25830–D25831; Turner Bequest CCLXVI 35a–36), and subsequently developed a studio watercolour Junction of the Greta and Tees (private collection)1 for engraving to illustrate ‘Rokeby’ in Sir Walter Scott’s Poetical Works, published in 1834.
Mortham Tower is a fortified manor house dating back in parts to the fourteenth century. It is a private house, but may be seen from the public footpath nearby. Scott’s poem Rokeby, in which it features, was first published in 1813 so it seems a reasonable assumption that Turner was already familiar with it.
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, p.429 no.1086.

David Hill
February 2009

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