Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study for a Composition of the Deluge


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 327 × 433 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XLVII 33

Catalogue entry

This slight study, made with the page turned horizontally, is one of three drawings that seem to be loosely related to Turner’s work on a large canvas, The Deluge, probably shown at his own gallery in 1805, and at the Royal Academy in 1813 (Tate N00493).1 The other two are D02198 and D02199 (Turner Bequest XLVII 21, 22); a further possibly connected sheet is D02211 (Turner Bequest XLVII 34). In the present drawing the detail is very indistinct, but there appears to be a great city on the left, with a pyramid looming behind tall buildings. Water sweeps down between this and a steep cliff on the right. In the other two sketches the cliff or mountain appears on the left of the design, and there are trees to the right, but no trees feature here.
The architectural motif on the left-hand side of the design is related to Turner’s ideas for a composition of Hero and Leander, adumbrated in the Calais Pier sketchbook (Tate D04959; Turner Bequest LXXXI 57), which was not realised until 1837 in a large painting exhibited at the Royal Academy (National Gallery, London, on long loan to Tate).2
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.43–4 no.55, pl.65 (colour).
Ibid., pp.221–2 no.370, pl.374 (colour).
Technical notes:
For a proposed sequence for the leaves of the disbound Fonthill sketchbook, with this page as folio 32, see the Introduction.

Andrew Wilton
March 2013

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