Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sion Ferry House and the Pavilion at Isleworth


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 111 × 188 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCI 39 a

Catalogue entry

This view, made with the sketchbook inverted, shows Isleworth with Sion Ferry House (which Turner rented for about eighteen months from early 1805) at the left and the pavilion to the right. The view is identifiable by comparison with sketches of the house and pavilion in the Wey, Guildford sketchbook in 1805. One ink and wash drawing from that sketchbook in particular matches the present composition almost exactly (Tate D06197; Turner Bequest XCVIII 13), and demonstrates how this small stretch of the Thames, at the southern corner of Syon Park, inspired in the mind of the artist thoughts of Claude’s classical harbour scenes. In this recreation of the view, Turner has added a group of rural figures, a ‘Girl and child’ and a Boy with [a] shovel’ who digs in the river bank. An inscription also refers to ‘Pigs’, though they are not actually shown. An adult figure standing to the left of the children could be playing a stringed instrument, such as a lute, providing a romantic or classical air to the scene, suggesting that it is likely to have been contrived.
There are a number of views of Sion (or Syon) Ferry House and the pavilion (some with Syon House) in the Wey, Guildford sketchbook (Tate D06195, D06196, D06198; Turner Bequest XCVIII 11, 12, 14) and several in the Studies for Pictures: Isleworth sketchbook (Tate D05495, D05496, D05528, D05602; Turner Bequest XC 4, 5, 27, 72a), as well as a watercolour in the Hesperides (1) sketchbook (Tate D05784; Turner Bequest XCIII 11). A view from the other side of the pavilion was used for a Liber Studiorum print called The Alcove, Isleworth, 1819 (mezzotint, Tate A01133).
The identification of this sketch provides they key to the other four river scenes in this sketchbook which are presumably also of the Thames (see folio 38 verso; D17710 for references). Two of the sketches show buildings set a little way back from the river bank (folios 40 verso and 42 verso; D17714, D17717). A number of mansions were built along this stretch of the Thames in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and were easily reachable by boat from Sandycombe Lodge which Turner used as his rural retreat until 1826.

Thomas Ardill
November 2008

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