Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study of the Sky over the Roman Campagna

1819

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

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Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 229 × 368 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D16387
Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 56

Catalogue entry

There are no distinguishing geographical features to help identify the location of this coloured sketch of open countryside. However, the format of empty landscape and wide expanse of sky, as well as the focus on atmospheric and naturalistic effects, has close similarities with other coloured compositions of the River Tiber and the Roman Campagna in the Naples: Rome C. Studies sketchbook (see Tate D16122–D16123, D16129–D16131, D16133; Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 34–5, 41–43, 45) and the Small Roman C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16469 and D16482; Turner Bequest CXC 64 and 65). A second related study can be also found within this sketchbook, on folio 55 (D16385).
Like many drawings within this sketchbook, the composition has been executed over a washed grey background, although in this instance the artist has also worked up the design with further washes of watercolour and gouache applied in loose wet sweeps across the page. Some energetic manipulation of the paint in the foreground provides a textural suggestion of foliage. There is no evidence of under-drawing and it is likely that Turner created the study from memory or imagination.
Verso:
Blank except for traces of watercolour; inscribed by an unknown hand(s) in pencil ‘clxxxix.56’ bottom right and ‘56?’ bottom left, ascending left-hand edge.

Nicola Moorby
October 2009

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