Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Banks of the River Medway

c.1821

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 112 × 190 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D17371
Turner Bequest CXCIX 4

Catalogue entry

Continuing from the facing page on folio 3 verso (D17370), the central drawing on this page describes a view of the banks of the River Medway, as identified by Finberg.1 Consistent with the other half of the sketch, the handling is light and gestural, recording general topographic shapes rather than specific details. The impression is of a broad hill, into which are cut ascending steps; likely to be buildings.
Indeed, in the top and bottom right-hand corners of the page, Turner diverts attention to the angular shapes of architectural structures. The sketch at top right is separated visually from the rest of the sheet by a single vertical line. This descends from the topmost edge of the page, towards the centre. The drawing describes a group of buildings, diverse in height and width, but clustered as one unpredictable form in front of a briefly indicated hill at far right.
In the bottom right corner Turner cordons off the space once again, this time using both vertical and horizontal lines to create a distinctive box for the third drawing on the page. Here he elaborates again on the buildings which occupy the river bank, describing two cubic shapes emerging close to the centre of the organic topographical scene.
The topography described on this page seems also to be the subject of later sketches, on folio 89 recto (D17504).
1
Finberg 1909, I, p.607.
Technical notes:
The rightmost edge of this page is marked with thumb or fingerprints.

Maud Whatley
January 2016

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