Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study for ‘Rokeby’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 248 × 176 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 288

Catalogue entry

This is one of four loose ‘colour beginnings’ related to the 1822 watercolour Rokeby (The Higgins, Bedford),1 showing a rocky, wooded ravine on the River Greta (see also Tate D25371, D25408 and D25409; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 249, 285, 286). This connection was established by Eric Shanes;2 see under D25371 for discussion of the circumstances, subject and composition of the finished design.
Shanes suggests that the apparently spontaneous streaks at the bottom (see the technical notes) ‘may have been intended to signify one of the boulders’, with their ‘stratified’ structure, in the completed composition, while the diagonal ‘dark dabs’ correspond with the position of Walter Scott’s verses, delicately inscribed as if carved into the rocks.3
Wilton 1979, p.424 no.1053, reproduced.
See Shanes 1997, pp.16–17, 30, 84–6, 97, 99, 101; see also Joll 2002, p.272, House 2006, p.12, and House 2013, p.31.
See Shanes 1997, p.86; see also p.17.
Technical notes:
Graham Reynolds observed: ‘Some of the pigment has been flicked or thrown on’.1 Eric Shanes has suggested a ‘controlled accident, for the diagonal, elongated blots at its lower left were surely created by the flicking of a paint-laden brush’, while the zigzags at the top left, representing pine trees, were made ‘with a narrow but wide (or ‘flat’) brush that was manipulated by a fast, controlled movement of the hand’.2
Reynolds 1969, p.[148].
Shanes 1997, p.84; see also pp.16–17.
Blank; inscribed by ?John Ruskin in pencil ‘AB 219 P | O’ bottom left, descending vertically; inscribed in pencil ‘CCLXIII | 288’ bottom right.

Matthew Imms
September 2016

Read full Catalogue entry

You might like

In the shop