Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Lake, Petworth, Sunrise


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Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 648 × 1257 mm
frame: 900 × 1512 × 89 mm
Presented by Miss M.H. Turner 1944

Display caption

This painting shows the Chichester Canal, recently constructed as part of a scheme to connect London and Portsmouth by water. The new canal system had a vital role in modernising trade and industry.

The Canal was the subject of a picture Turner painted to decorate the Carved Room at Lord Egremont’s country house, Petworth, in Sussex. He must have created this painted sketch as he explored different designs for the finished picture. Lord Egremont had invested heavily in the Canal. Perhaps surprisingly, the aristocracy and landed gentry had an important role in funding such modernising projects.  

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

[from] Nos. 282–91 : Petworth Landscapes, c. 1828–30

THESE fall into two groups, plus the separate painting relating to the two versions of Chichester Canal (No. 282 [N05563]). The first group consists of the five works from the Turner Bequest now in the Tate Gallery (Nos. 283–7); the second of the four rather more finished pictures still at Petworth (Nos. 288–91). These latter works originally hung below full-length seventeenth-century portraits in the Grinling Gibbons panelled dining-room, and are more or less closely based on four of the Tate Gallery pictures, at least one of which seems originally to have hung in the place later occupied by one of the more finished pictures.

Although Turner had painted a view of Petworth House in 1810 (No. 113 [T03880]) and had sold a considerable number of pictures to Lord Egremont, he became a more frequent visitor to Petworth after the death of his father in 1829. In particular it is known that he stayed there from December 1830 to January 1831. Nearly all recent writers on Turner have followed Finberg in assuming that it was then that the landscapes were painted, or at least begun. On the other hand, Collins Baker dates them c. 1829–30, with the exception of the Brighton, which he assigns definitely to 1830. MacColl, following earlier National Gallery catalogues, dates the sketches for Petworth Park and Chichester Canal (Nos. 283 [N00559] and 285 [N00560]) to 1829. Thornbury dates the Petworth Park even earlier, 1828.

In fact, the first known reference to the landscapes occurs in a letter from Thomas Creevey to Miss Ord of 18 August 1828, giving an account of his visit to Petworth on 16–17 August. After describing ‘the sixty foot dining room’ with its full-length portraits, he goes on, ‘Immense as these pictures are with all their garniture there are still panels to spare, and as he [Lord Egremont] always has artists ready in the house, in one of these compartments, you have Petworth Park by Turner, in another Lord Egremont taking a walk with nine dogs, that are his constant companions, by the same artist ...’ The second of the pictures mentioned must be the Tate Gallery's Petworth Park: Tillington Church in the Distance (No. 283 [N00559]), the dogs in which are omitted from the more finished version at Petworth (No. 288 [T03883]). The other picture is presumably the Tate's Lake, Petworth, Sunset (No. 284 [N02701]), unless the more finished version (No. 289 [T03884]) was already in situ.

John Gage has recently discovered that Turner was at Petworth in August 1827, and the landscapes may have been begun then. On the other hand, Gage has also suggested that the Tate Gallery pictures were begun in London and rejected because they turned out to be too large (1969, p. 260 n. 91), but Creevey's report makes this highly unlikely unless the pictures he saw were somehow only temporarily superimposed on the panels. In any case, the Tate pictures are not consistently larger than the final versions. It may therefore be that Lord Egremont, whose collection had hitherto been confined to Turner's earlier style, found the first set of pictures too sketchy in style; the history of Palestrina (No. 295 [N06283]) suggests another instance of Lord Egremont failing to appreciate Turner's mature work.

That Turner painted some if not all of the Petworth landscapes in the studio specially provided for him in the house is suggested by an anecdote in George Jones' manuscript Recollections of Sir Francis Chantrey, written in 1849: ‘When Turner painted a series of landscapes at Petworth, for the dining-room, he worked with his door locked against everybody but the master of the house. Chantrey was there at the time, and determined to see what Turner was doing; he imitated Lord Egremont's peculiar step, and the two distinct raps on the door by which his lordship was accustomed to announce himself: and the key being immediately turned, he slipped into the room before the artist could shut him out, which joke was mutually enjoyed by the two attached friends’ (reprinted in Finberg 1961, p. 325).

Lit. Thornbury 1862, i, p. 306; 1877, p. 439; Collins Baker 1920, pp. 124–5; MacColl 1920, p. 27; John Gore (ed.), Creevey's life and Times: A Further Selection from the Correspondence of Thomas Creevey 1934, p. 277; John Gore (ed.), Creevey 1948, p. 293; Finberg 1961, p. 325; Herrmann 1975, pp. 34, 231–2; Joll 1977, pp. 374–9; Young-blood 1983, p. 16.

282. [N05563] Evening Landscape, probably Chichester Canal c. 1825–8


Canvas, 25 1/2 × 49 1/2 (65 × 126)

Coll. Presumably by descent to Miss M. H. Turner, by whom presented to the Tate Gallery 1944; transferred to the National Gallery 1963, returned to the Tate Gallery 1964.

Exh. The Tate Gallery's Wartime Acquisitions, Second Exhibition, Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts tour (89) and National Gallery (82) 1945; Hamburg, Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen 1949–50 (99); Paris 1953 (76); R.A. 1974–5 (330); Paris 1983–4 (50, repr.).

This picture cannot be identified in the schedule of the Turner Bequest but was presumably one of the works that were in Turner's possession at his death but were handed over to his next-of-kin as not being by the artist, following the settlement that set aside the terms of his will in 1856. The attribution has indeed been doubted but the painting seems quite definitely to be by Turner.

The composition is closely related to the two versions of Chichester Canal (Nos. 285 [N00560] and 290 [T03885]), though the scene is viewed from a slightly different angle, with the same setting sun but without the ship and the distant glimpse of Chichester Cathedral. In addition the distant hills have distinct peaks rather than being rounded, and it is therefore just possible that Turner adapted a view of a different place when he came to depict Chichester Canal.

This picture is distinct from the main group of Petworth sketches in its colouring and technique, being more thickly painted, some of the paint having been worked on the canvas while still wet. This suggests a slightly earlier date, say c. 1825, though Evelyn Joll prefers a date closer to the commission for the main series of Petworth landscapes and points to the similarities in handling to Rocky Bay with Figures, No. 434 [N01989].

Published in:
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984

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