Joseph Mallord William Turner

Oxford from the South-West


Not on display
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on paper
Support: 364 x 511 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest III B

Display caption

Turner can have been no more than thirteen when he painted this simple prospect of Oxford from North Hinksey. Although the composition devotes over two-thirds of the available space to the sky, there is no sense of this having been sketched from nature. Rather, the way the sky is painted is typical of the often perfunctory blue and wash drawings made by most late eighteenth-century topographers, who were more concerned with the accurate representation of a specific place than with recording the transient effects of nature.

Gallery label, September 2004

Technique and condition

Catalogue entry

Youngblood, with some justification, considers that the style of this sheet is consistent with that of Turner’s early Margate drawings.1 Like those drawings it was, as Harrison observes, presumably made from sketches on the spot, but is very unlikely to have been completed out of doors. The buildings of the city are huddled together to the right of the composition, with the towers of St Giles’s and Magdalen (at the extreme right) conspicuous, along with the spire of Christ Church Cathedral and the dome of the Radcliffe Camera. Compare the distant view of Oxford dated 1789 (Tate D00046; Turner Bequest III A).
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.300 nos.1–4, reproduced (3 and 4), pls.1, 2 (1 and 2 respectively), as ?1784.

Andrew Wilton
April 2012

Read full Catalogue entry

You might like