Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sketch of a Bank, with Gipsies

? exhibited 1809

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 613 × 838 mm
frame: 967 × 1180 × 133 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Display caption

Turner depicts a rough and untidy landscape in this small and sketchy painting. Turner was interested in the 'picturesque'. This was an artistic idea that was fashionable at the time. Picturesque paintings showed landscapes that were beautiful but with some elements of wildness. This picture was probably first shown in Turner's Gallery in 1809. Turner’s focus is on light and contrast. The figures of the people are barely visible in the black shadows. The smoke from their fire can just be made out. The word ‘Gipsies’ used in the title is now widely acknowledged as an offensive term for Roma people. Turner probably included them to enhance the picturesque atmosphere, drawing on stereotypes of this community as wild and mysterious.

Gallery label, July 2020

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Catalogue entry

82. [N00467] Sketch of a Bank, with Gipsies Exh. 1809?

Canvas, 24 1/2 × 33 (61·5 × 84)
Coll. Turner Bequest 1856 (?89, ‘Cows on a Hill’ 4'9 1/2" × 3'0 1/2"); transferred to the Tate Gallery 1910.

Exh. ?Turner's gallery 1809 (1); Tate Gallery 1931 (41); Amsterdam, Berne, Paris, Brussels, Liege (14), Venice and Rome (16) 1947–8; Arts Council tour 1952 (8); Tate Gallery 1973–4 (205, repr.).

Engr. Etched by Turner for the Liber Studiorum R.91, but not published (two impressions repr. Finberg 1924, pp. 364–5).

Lit. Thornbury 1862, i, p. 262; 1877, p. 418; Armstrong 1902, p. 228; MacColl 1920, p. 4; Finberg 1924, p. 365, repr. p. 364; Rothenstein and Butlin 1964, p. 27; Gage 1965, p. 79; Lindsay 1966, p. 106.

Probably the work of this title exhibited at Turner's gallery in 1809. Perhaps in part based on sketches in the ‘Cows’ sketchbook (LXII, especially pp. 10 and 13 for the left-hand cow).

Published in:
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984


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