Joseph Mallord William Turner

Rocks and Foliage


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Ink wash, graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 215 × 292 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LVIII 50

Technique and condition

This composition is on white wove Whatman paper with a light-brown wash long described as ‘tobacco water’, which would have been made by chewing tobacco and painting with the resulting liquid. Its analysis has not yet been attempted: it would require the preparation of a number of samples, and a method of simulating 200-odd years of storage condition, even before a suitable analytical technique were developed for minute samples, or for a non-contact method.
With tobacco water or indeed other materials, a group of papers could have been prepared indoors for later use. In this case the study was drawn and then shaded in a blunt graphite pencil and another very soft material, which might be described as a very soft graphite pencil with brown ochre added. Use of this material at two or three different ‘strengths’, some layered on top of another, gives a similar effect to having used several washes in different shades of brown. Thus, two dry and eminently portable drawing tools could have been used extremely rapidly, outdoors if necessary, without any need for water or any liquid paint. The delicately-applied gouache, probably based on chalk, might even have been applied on a later occasion, or indoors.

Helen Evans
November 2008

Revised by Joyce Townsend
February 2011

Catalogue entry

The setting of this subject is unidentified.

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

Read full Catalogue entry


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