Joseph Mallord William Turner

Perspective Study of a House


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Pen and ink, graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 410 × 535 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCV 83

Catalogue entry

This drawing of a house in perspective was used to trace the guiding lines for a finished diagram (Tate D17052; Turner Bequest CXCV 82), one of two numbered 36 made for Turner’s lectures as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy. It is one of a group of associated diagrams of the same subject whose preparation Maurice Davies describes as unusual:
For complex lecture diagrams he normally first carried out a very careful pencil and ink drawing, based on a detailed perspective construction. He then traced the outlines of the drawing and added a simplified version of the main details of the construction to give the lecture diagram. He sometimes enlarged the tracing, possibly using a pantography, or possibly the eye. Even in the latter case he normally kept the viewpoint in exactly the same position. In addition to the lecture diagram showing the construction, he sometimes also prepared a watercolour of the results, also based on the tracing. For Diagram 36 [Tate D17050; Turner Bequest CXCV 80], he seems to have begun to follow his normal procedure: there is [this] carefully prepared pencil construction, a watercolour based on a tracing made from the drawing (and also numbered 36) [Tate D17052; Turner Bequest CXCV 82] and a further tracing overlaid with some details of a perspective construction (Tate D17051; Turner Bequest CXCV 81). However, the latter was abandoned incomplete (the partially shown construction appears to be incorrect in yet another way). The diagram Turner eventually completed [Tate D17050] is not based on [this] initial pencil drawing. The angle of view of the building is different and it appears to have been drawn free-hand, possibly based on the small sketch in the first draft of the lecture.1 Several of the lines are not straight and the sides of the building do not recede accurately to the (incorrect!) vanishing points.2
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 F folio 5 verso.
Davies 1994, p.116.
Indications of Turner’s transfer process and an inscription by an unknown hand in pencil ‘84a’ bottom left.
Technical notes:

Andrea Fredericksen
June 2004

Revised by David Blayney Brown
January 2012

Read full Catalogue entry


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