Joseph Mallord William Turner

St Agatha’s Abbey, Easby, Yorkshire


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 395 × 504 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 360

Catalogue entry

Turner first sketched the ruined Easby Abbey or Abbey of St Agatha on the outskirts of Richmond in 1797, resulting in a large watercolour (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester)1. He revisited the abbey during his 1816 tour of Yorkshire, and this ‘colour beginning’, awash with yellow, lays out the basic composition and key tonal relationships of a finished watercolour (British Museum, London), although it includes none of the foreground details. Two pencil sketches are the source of the basic composition, one made in 1816 and the other dating from Turner’s first visit in 1797 (Tate D11224; Turner Bequest CXLV 112, Tate D00931; Turner Bequest XXXIV 25). The finished watercolour was engraved by John le Keux (1783–1846) and published as part of Whitaker’s History of Richmondshire in 1822 (Tate impressions: T04443, T04444).
David Hill has grouped two further colour studies with this and the finished Richmondshire watercolour, one at Tate and one in a private collection. The three studies have also been linked to the later England and Wales series, and the other Tate colour study is assigned to that section of the catalogue. For a discussion of this, see the relevant catalogue entry by Matthew Imms (Tate D25211; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 89). In the case of the present colour study, the close relationship between it in terms of its composition and colour scheme, and the finished Richmondshire subject, leaves little doubt that it is a ‘colour beginning’ for this series.
See also the introduction to the Richmondshire ‘colour beginnings’ grouping to which this study has been assigned.
Wilton 1979, p. 330 no. 273.
Technical notes:
Laid down on a heavy paper, meaning the watermark noted by Finberg of ‘J. Whatman. Turkey Mills. 1819’1 and mentioned by Eric Shanes2 could not be examined.
Finberg 1909, vol.II, p.842.
Shanes 1997, p.101.
Blank, save for inscriptions: written in pencil ‘95’ upper right; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram bottom left.

Elizabeth Jacklin
February 2015

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