Joseph Mallord William Turner

The River Thames and Kew Bridge, with Brentford Eyot in the Foreground and Strand-on-Green Seen through the Arches: Low Tide


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 256 × 364 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XCV 42

Technique and condition

This pencil and watercolour composition is on white wove paper. Vague initial sketching in graphite pencil is visible. A mixture of pigments has been used to create the greens and browns in the foreground of this picture. The trees in the distance consist of a yellow transparent wash applied over a blue wash. The pigments used include Mars orange, Mars red, yellow ochre and brown earth pigments, all mixed as needed with Prussian blue, and probably some indigo in the sky. The latter blue, if used on the left aide of the sky, has faded somewhat, to an extent that cannot be determined, since this sheet has not been displayed with a window mount that would have protected the outer edges from fading. Mars pigments are manufactured earth pigments with brighter colours than the natural products.

Helen Evans
October 2008

Revised by Joyce Townsend
February 2011

Catalogue entry

This right-hand page has one of the most elaborate, carefully wrought watercolours from this sketchbook, raising the question of whether it was painted on the spot or in the studio over a pencil sketch made from the motif. Spender represents the latter view.1 On the other hand Hill, while comparing it to the more spontaneous ‘bravura’ of watercolours in the contemporary Hesperides (1) sketchbook (for example another view of Kew Bridge, Tate D05833; Turner Bequest XCIII 38a), notes that it also contains fleeting ‘real time’ effects such as shadow passing across the right-hand arches of the bridge and that the unfinished foreground looks as if it ‘was left off because there was insufficient time to complete it’. Hill considers there are ‘clear suggestions of its having been painted from nature’.2
Finberg says this leaf was exhibited as no.52 in the Third Loan Collection but Warrell gives it as no.150, noting that it had been withdrawn by 1909.
Spender and Fry 1980, p.61.
Hill 1993, p.45.
Blank, but with numerous watercolour trials.

David Blayney Brown
February 2009

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