Joseph Mallord William Turner

St Catherine’s Hill near Guildford


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 182 × 257 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXVII J

Catalogue entry

Etching and mezzotint by Turner and J.C. Easling, ‘St. Catherines Hill near Guildford’, published Turner, [?1] June 1811
St Catherine’s Hill, taking its name from the dedication of the ruined medieval chapel at its summit, stands between the Portsmouth road and the River Wey about a mile south of the centre of Guildford in Surrey. Along with Hind Head Hill, Water Mill and Hedging and Ditching (see Tate D08130, D08140, D08151; Turner Bequest CXVII C, M, W) this Liber Studiorum composition is derived from slight sketches made in the Spithead sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest C), generally thought to have been made on Turner’s round trip from London to Portsmouth to London in October and November 1807.1 In this case the source was a drawing (D06613; C 73a) from a sequence of studies (see also D06611, D06615, D06617; C 72a, 74a, 75a), although Turner had first recorded the chapel in the early 1790s (Tate D00183, D40227; Turner Bequest XVII H and verso) and again in a sequence from various angles in the 1805 Wey, Guildford sketchbook (Tate D06306, D06314, D06316, D06318; Turner Bequest XCVIII 110a, 114a, 115a, 116a). There is also an oil sketch from the latter year (Tate N02676),2 where the chapel is seen from near St Catherine’s Lock to the south, east of the road which appears in the Liber design; the latter may have been partly informed by the central passage of the oil study.
Ruskin favourably compared the ‘fullness and completion’ of the ‘home’ subjects to the Continental in the Liber, contrasting ‘the cattle and road of the St. Catherine’s Hill, with the foreground of the Bonneville’3 (for drawing for the latter, see Tate D08164; Turner Bequest CXVIII J). Stopford Brooke commended the ‘spiritual power’ he detected in the chapel’s presence:
It stands broken and sorrowful, the witness of a bygone faith, roofless, windowless, but at peace; ... It has done its work for man and God, and Turner paints it in its ruined rest. As in the Dunstanborough [see Liber drawing Tate D08118; Turner Bequest CXVI Q], he has here also laid the sheep about the hill to increase the impression of quiet; ... It is no picturesque place. Turner paints English life as it was; and the struggle of the poor is uppermost in his mind in all these rustic subjects. ... He paints them at the hour of rest, and the sense of its consolation broods over this little world.4
See Alexander J. Finberg, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A. Second Edition, Revised, with a Supplement, by Hilda F. Finberg, revised ed., Oxford 1961, p.138.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.122 no.187, pl.187 (colour); see also David Hill, Turner on the Thames: River Journeys in the Year 1805, New Haven and London 1993, pp.78–80.
Cook and Wedderburn III 1903, p.236.
Brooke 1885, p.107.
Forrester 1996, p.92.
Ibid., pp.160–1 (transcribed).
Finberg 1924, p.xliii; Forrester 1996, pp.13–14.
Forrester 1996, p.161 (transcribed).
Rawlinson 1878, pp.69–76; 1906, pp.80–9; Finberg 1924, pp.125–44.
[John Ward] ed., Frederick Wedmore, Frank Short and others, The South Kensington Drawing-Book. A Selection from the Liber Studiorum of J.M.W. Turner, R.A. for Artists, Art Students, and Amateurs. A Drawing-Book Suggested by the Writings of Mr. Ruskin..., London [1890], opposite p.27.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.398 no.837, reproduced.
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files, with slides of details.

Matthew Imms
August 2008

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