Joseph Mallord William Turner

Ripon Cathedral, from the River Ure to the North-East near Sharow


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 125 × 200 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXLVI 9

Catalogue entry

This sketch revisits a viewpoint at Bell Bank on the left bank of the River Ure that Turner first sketched in 1797 (Tate D01099; Turner Bequest XXXVI E). See also sketches in the Yorkshire 1 sketchbook (Tate D10932, D10933–D10934, D10935; Turner Bequest CXLIV 35, 35a–36, 36a) made on the same visit in 1816; the first two from viewpoints on the top of Bell Bank slightly further south, and the third from the same aspect but considerably closer to the Minster.
Shadow indications on the Minster in the present sketch place the sun in the south-east, or mid-morning. The comparison with the 1797 sketch reveals how much more synthetic was Turner’s approach in 1816. The sense of space and scale in 1797 is relatively prosaic. In 1816 Turner relates the Minster to the river with much greater perceptual dynamism, and takes firmer hold of his comprehension of the Minster. It is typically perceptive of Turner that on this occasion he noted the characteristic colour of the local soil where it is exposed on the ‘Red Path’ up the bank to the left.
This group of sketches at Bell Bank represents Turner’s most concentrated treatment of Ripon in 1816, and he appears to have been searching along the left bank of the river Ure from Hewick Bridge to the Ure Bridge in search of a view of the town and Minster across the river. Bell Bank was by no means on the beaten path for artists at Ripon, and was a far less obvious viewpoint than, for example, that of his sketch from the Ure Bridge on folio 8 recto (D11382). Bell Bank is easily visited today on a riverside footpath leading downstream from the Ure Bridge, but the viewpoint is not widely known. The same appears to have been true in Turner’s time from the infrequency of its representation.1 He had discovered the locality on his first visit to Ripon in 1797 and sketched it on that occasion (Tate D01099; Turner Bequest XXXVI E) and to judge from the number of studies from this area in 1816, Turner was working towards a finished composition for Thomas Dunham Whitaker’s General History of the County of York..
No other sketches from this viewpoint are known to the present writer. By far the majority of earlier or contemporary treatments of Ripon are from the south-west or south-east aspects.

David Hill
January 2009

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