Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study for ‘Cassiobury Park; Reaping’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Ink wash and pen and ink on paper
Support: 186 × 230 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXX D

Catalogue entry

Finberg’s note on this drawing adds ‘Possibly Windor [sic] Castle in distance’. It is in fact a
composition study for Cassiobury Park; Reaping (Tate N04663),1 an unfinished oil now usually dated circa 1809 but possibly begun as early as 1807 and still in progress later. The subject is the companion to Harvest Home (Tate N00562),2 also unfinished, for which a similar composition study exists, originally drawn on part of the same sheet of paper and annotated by Turner ‘Ld Essex’s Harvest Home’ (Tate D08216; Turner Bequest CXX C). David Hill was the first to recognise that the setting in the painting of the present subject is Lord Essex’s Hertfordshire estate of Cassiobury, and to propose a commission from him for both pictures. His suggestion was first made in a letter to Martin Butlin of 18 March 1984, and was endorsed by Butlin and Joll. See catalogue entry for D08216 for background, and the possible reasons for Turner having abandoned the project.
A recent visit by Turner to Cassiobury was noted by Joseph Farington on 15 November 1807.3 A visit in late summer presumably coincided with the harvest supper of which on-the-spot sketches appear in Turner’s Harvest Home sketchbook. A pencil outline on folio 17 verso of the sketchbook (Tate D05373), at first glance so slight as to be almost imperceptible, may in fact be the basis of this reaping scene, a view across fields towards the silhouette of the house, set on its hillside beyond a thin screen of trees. There are also sketches connected with the picture in the River sketchbook (Tate D06017, D06042–D06044, D06046, D06048; Turner Bequest XCVI 46, 61a–62, 62a, 63a, 64a).

A further harvest scene (Tate D08220; Turner Bequest CXX G), identical in technique with freely brushed wash, was originally drawn on the same sheet and also formed the basis of an oil (Tate N03048).
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.128 no.209a (pl.209).
Ibid., p.128 no.209 (pl.208).
Kathryn Cave ed., The Diary of Joseph Farington, vol.VIII, New Haven and London 1982, p.3141.
Inscribed by unknown hands in pencil ‘558’ and ‘Reaping’
Stamped in black ‘CXX D’
Technical notes:
For the paper and its maker William Allee see Tate D08216; Turner Bequest CXX C. The drawing is faded.

David Blayney Brown
December 2009

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