Technique and condition
This watercolour is in the small-scale Studies near Brighton sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest XXX) made from several sheets each of white wove Whatman paper and strong blue laid wrapping paper. This sketchbook was probably bound by William Dickie at 120 Strand, London, who bound many of Turner’s sketchbooks, often using paper supplied by Turner himself (Bower 1994). A similar blue paper is found in the Wilson sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest XXXVII). In the Studies near Brighton sketchbook Turner also prepared some of the blue pages with a red wash, while in the Wilson sketchbook every page was so treated, and Turner may have done this himself before the book was bound.1 The Wilson sketchbook would have had deep red-brown pages originally, all of which have lost colour. Its red wash was applied with glue size, probably brushed on hot for ease of application. This sizing and the somewhat unusual presence of wool fibres in the paper in addition to the more common linen ones gave a very strong paper which could survive vigorous brushwork and repeated soaking during the painting process.2
The red wash here was applied with less glue size than in the other sketchbook, and has some colour variation across the pages. Such a red-brown page made a perfect base tone for the two pigs, which could then be represented economically by creating light brown ochre watercolour outlines with a fine brush for their backs and limbs, and adding black markings, deeper pink ones with red ochre, and emphatic brown shadows for their large ears, using small dabs of pure colours.
Though all three animals are dozing, the cat is a less lively and detailed image. It was also outlined in a thin, light brown ochre watercolour wash which then required a rapid infill with yellowish ochre, to give conviction to the tabby markings that were rapidly scratched into opaque dark brown and black washes applied to its back. These techniques did not require the heavily-sized paper of the Wilson sketchbook.
Turner made this study with the page turned vertically. See folio 93 recto (D00839; Turner Bequest XXX 94), another study of pigs evidently made at the same time as this.
John Ruskin singled out this sheet for exhibition, with a drawing of donkeys (Tate D22769; Turner Bequest CCXLIV 107). He wrote of the pair: ‘Both wonderful, quite beyond telling. There is an etching of Rembrandt’s which approaches the upper study [i.e. the Pigs] but by no means equals it. Examine it for a quarter of an hour through a magnifying-glass and you will see something of what it is.’1
Cook 1902, p.232; Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.272; Finberg 1909, I, p.62.
The page has faded, except at the edges, owing to prolonged exposure when it was exhibited.
Blank, prepared with a red-brown wash; blind-stamped ‘XXX – 93’ above Turner Bequest monogram, inscribed in red ink ‘a’ and inscribed in pencil ‘XXX – 93’.