Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study for ‘England: Richmond Hill, on the Prince Regent’s Birthday’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 88 × 114 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXLI 10 a

Catalogue entry

Continued on folio 11 of the sketchbook (D10602) this is a study for England: Richmond Hill, on the Prince Regent’s Birthday (Tate N00502)1 exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1819. Two variant double-spread studies follow on folios 11 verso–13 (D10603–D10606). Although described by Butlin and Joll as ‘drawings of the general view from Richmond Hill’ they are surely directly preparatory for the picture as they place so much emphasis on a crowd of figures and, in the continuation of the present study on D10602, the drum which Turner painted just to right of centre can be clearly seen. Also related to Turner’s plans for the picture is the copy on folios 26 verso–27 (D10629–D10630) after Antoine Watteau’s Enchanted Isle (private collection) in the collection of his friend, the artist James Holworthy. Watteau’s picture had formerly belonged to the painter Sir Joshua Reynolds and Turner must have taken it into account not only because it depicted an elegant garden party, but because Reynolds’s former home at Wick House commanded much the same view of Richmond Hill as he intended to paint in his own picture. A number of drawings in the contemporary Richmond Hill; Hastings to Margate sketchbook (Tate D10409–D10585; D40868; D41539; Turner Bequest CXL) must also have been used for it.
Turner’s largest exhibited canvas so far, England; Richmond Hill has complex origins and motivations beyond the wish to depict a famous prospect. The exhibition of T.C. Hofland’s similarly enormous View from Richmond Hill (formerly at the Grocers’ Hall, London; destroyed) at the Royal Academy in 1815 was one spur, but so was Thomas Stothard’s more modest Sans Souci (Tate N01829), the first of a number of popular pastiches of Watteau by this artist, shown at the Academy in 1817. Martin Butlin has noted similarities of format, details and royal associations with Philip IV of Spain Hunting Boar (La Tela Real) (National Gallery, London) by Diego Velázquez (1599–1660) which was lent by Sir Henry Wellesley to the British Institution in 1819,2 but as its exhibition more or less coincided with the Academy’s these can only be coincidental. In the context of Turner’s own work, the picture follows earlier canvases like Thomson’s Aeolian Harp (Manchester Art Gallery)3 in associating English scenery and poetry; it was exhibited with verses from James Thomson’s Seasons describing sights visible from Richmond Hill. It also alluded indirectly to Shakespeare as the Prince Regent’s official birthday was often celebrated on 23 April, traditionally Shakespeare’s birthday, Turner’s and St George’s Day as well.

David Blayney Brown
July 2011

Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.106–7 no.140 (pl.145).
Martin Butlin, ‘Turner and Tradition’, Turner Society News, no.74, December 1996, p.11.
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.64–5 no.86 (pl.96).
Charles Stuckey, ‘Turner’s Birthdays’, Turner Society News, no.21, April 1981, pp.4–6.
Jean Golt, ‘Beauty and Meaning on Richmond Hill: New Light on Turner’s Masterpiece of 1819’, Turner Studies, vol.7, no.2, Winter 1987, pp.9–20.
For example The Times, 14 August 1817; Golt 1987, pp.11–2.
Sotheby’s sale, London, 5 July 2005, lot 40; Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.80–2 no.114 (pl.122).

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