Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sketches of Stags


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 248 x 343 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XCV 43

Technique and condition

These pencil and watercolour sketches of stags were executed on white wove paper. The paper has no watermark but is similar to Whatman papers of the time. The graphite pencil outline of each stag was made first, then localised watercolour washes in warm brown and a mixed greenish grey were applied, never overlapping, the brown on the animals’ backs and noses to indicate the naturally darker markings of the breed, and the grey more locally to indicate most of the eyes, and the markings on individuals. Unpainted paper serves both as the background and to convey the lighter brown of the rest of the animals’ bodies. The stags could have been made in just a few minutes, and the same two colour mixtures could equally have been used to tone a sketch of a late autumn landscape.
There are several splashes and dabs of watercolour along the edge of the recto, probably not related to the sketched animals. There is a light pencil sketch on the verso of foliage and distant buildings; this spans the top two thirds of the sheet.

Helen Evans
October 2008

Revised by Joyce Townsend
February 2011


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