Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study for ‘Ploughing, Eton’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 230 × 344 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXV 47

Display caption

At a time of war, ploughing had a powerful patriotic symbolism. The image of the plough is also part of biblical symbolism. Its function is implicit in St John’s vision of what he called ‘a new earth’ which came at the Last Judgement.

Turner probably drew this scene in the aftermath of Waterloo, the battle that finally rid Europe of Napoleon. Turner once said ‘the soil is British & so shall be the harvest’.  His sentiment is close to Blake’s thoughts in Jerusalem, though Blake’s words possess the energy of the prophetic visionary. This made Blake very different to his fellow artists.

Gallery label, December 2004

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