Joseph Mallord William Turner

Notes on Sir Joshua Reynolds’s ‘Discourses’ (Inscriptions by Turner)


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Ink on paper
Support: 185 × 108 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CVI 71 a

Catalogue entry

Turner’s notes commenced here continue on folio 73 verso of the sketchbook (D07217; Turner Bequest CVI 70a); for convenience they are transcribed in full here:
Sir Joshua’s 1st discourse consists of seven pages. 
29 lines of 29 letters only | 
435           2 Discourse.  13 Pages.  Leaves 
13,615 lines 
The history of errors [properly managed inserted] shortens the road | to truth. 2 Discourse. | The a Student from the stock of Ideas | collects and not by ... following | any favourite beyond where that mas|ter excells. Yet not blindly to any | authority however great, but not to | rely but be afraid of trusting his | own judgement [& of deviating into any track inserted without deleted] which he | cannot find the Footsteps of some famous | master | A great part of every composition is | commonplace – 2 dis. – therefore G Copying | delusive | By comparison with originals deficiencies | are ... more sensibly than by precepts. | The true principles of Ptg. will mingle with | your thoughts. Ideas fixed by sensible objects [continued on folio 73 verso] will be certain and defective and sinking | deeper in the mind will not only be just | but more lasting than those presented to you | by precepts only, wh. will always be fleeting | variable and undetermined. 2 dis. | Not to have any dependence upon [yr own inserted] Genius. | If you have any great talents industry will | improve them, if you have but moderate abilities | industry will improve them. Nothing denied to | well directed labours. Assiduity unabated by | difficulty. A disposition eagerly directed to | its pursuits will produce effects similar to those | wh. some call the result of natural powers. | 2 discourse
Finberg, confirming that Turner’s source was the second of Sir Joshua Reynolds’s Royal Academy Discourses, quotes some of the original text; as is often the case, Turner has summarised the original text and altered some words, so that, for example, ‘ideas [thus] fixed by sensible objects’ become ‘defective’ instead of ‘definitive’. Discourse 2 was first given by Reynolds in 1769. It was devoted to ‘The Course and Order of Study’.

David Blayney Brown
July 2010

Read full Catalogue entry

You might like

In the shop