Joseph Mallord William Turner

Notes on the Royal Academy (1830); and the Continuation of a Sketch of Jedburgh Abbey


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Pen and ink and graphite on paper
Support: 96 × 59 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXV 1

Catalogue entry

Finberg, who managed to transcribe most of Turner’s ink inscription across folios 1, 2 and 3 (D25644, D25646, D25647), gave no explanation of their meaning.1 However, C.F. Bell recognised in his 1910 review of Finberg’s inventory that the notes constituted ‘the drafts of a resolution for the [Royal] Academy council’, which was probably related to ‘the abortive effort to purchase by subscription Sir Thomas Lawrence’s collection of drawings by Old Masters for the National Gallery.’2 As Bell, and later John Gage, pointed out, Turner was against the purchase of these drawings for the Royal Academy, as he regarded it as ‘subversive’ of the purpose of the Academy’s surplus fund.3 Jack Lindsay has also mentioned this note, but erroneously in reference to Turner’s second will.4
The notes across all three pages are transcribed below.
[This page]
1. That it is inexpedient in the present state of the Finances of R.A. –
2. That it is a novelty to subscribe but towards to belong to the R.A.
3. That is against the Law... it being a donation in part, to obtain for another body the object in question, viz.
4. That more than 50 " – cannot be given away in
[Folio 2; D25646]
Charity, at one time – without the consent of his Majesty
5. That is against the original intention of the foundation of R.A. by G. III, vis. a fund for the relief of Decayed Members and the support of the Art, by the R.A. surplus Fund [?as] its [?mission] being called upon to supply & [...] subversive of its true principles and a precedent fatal to the [extension] by ... [?H...] that no donation in work of art
[Folio 3; D25647]
or pecuniary assistance.
A note in the inside back cover of this sketchbook (D41234) is also related to this matter: ‘38 G. 1st Legacy Duty remitted to bequests to the Royal Academy’.
With the sketchbook turned to the right is the continuation at the top of the page of a sketch of the west end of Jedburgh Abbey. This part of the sketch, partially hidden by the ink inscription, shows the lower part of the entrance at the west of the abbey with the ornate arched doorway. To the left of the sketch is a separate study of a narrow arched window to the left of the doorway.

Thomas Ardill
September 2009

Finberg 1909, II, p.850, CCLXV 1, 2 and 3.
C. F. Bell, ‘The Drawings of the Turner Bequest’, The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, vol.16, No.84, March 1910, pp.339–40.
John Gage, J.M.W. Turner: ‘A Wonderful Range of Mind’, New Haven and London 1987, pp.129, 250 note 22.
Jack Lindsay, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work: A Critical Biography, London 1966, pp.173, 245 note 11.

Read full Catalogue entry

You might like