Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study for a Historical Picture

1816

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 97 × 154 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D11027
Turner Bequest CXLIV 97 a

Catalogue entry

For historical studies in this sketchbook see Introduction and notes to folio 95 verso (D11023).
Here, travellers are arriving through a wooded gorge at the gates of a classical city, glimpsed above. A similar idea, at least with regard to the left-hand side of the composition, recurs in an unfinished painting Archway with Trees by the Sea (Tate N03381). The painting is usually associated with Turner’s trip to Rome in 18281, and differs in that it sets the architecture on the coast rather than in a deep wooded valley as in the sketch. It is perhaps significant that the painting is often related to Turner’s finished painting of The Parting of Hero and Leander (National Gallery, London)2 exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1837. A sketch on folio 103 verso of the present sketchbook (D11036) documents the conception of that composition, and it appears that its general elements may have formed and reformed a number of times during Turner’s career.
A smudge of lamp black or ink is offset from a mark on folio 98 (D11028), opposite.

David Hill
January 2009

1
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.178 no.310 (pl.313).
2
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.221–2 no.370 (pl.374).

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