Joseph Mallord William Turner

The River Thames from Richmond Hill


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 114 × 188 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXII 5 a

Catalogue entry

In the distance is the curve of the River Thames seen to the west from the top of Richmond Hill, a subject Turner sketched many times and from which he developed finished works including his major oil painting England: Richmond Hill, on the Prince Regent’s Birthday (Tate N00502),1 exhibited in 1819. He subsequently produced two watercolours of the view: Richmond Hill of about 1825 (Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight),2 engraved in 1826 for the Literary Souvenir (Tate impression: T06132); and Richmond Terrace, Surrey of about 1836 (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool),3 engraved in 1838 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impressions: T04611, T06128).
The famous vista had a special resonance for Turner as at this time he still retained his self-designed house, Sandycombe Lodge, at Twickenham on the far side of the river below (see the sketchbook’s Introduction). Stretching back to the mid-1790s, Turner’s views from the hill include watercolour studies (Tate D00672, D17192, D25510; Turner Bequest XXVII K, CXCVII B, CCLXIII 386), and pencil drawings scattered through the Studies for Pictures: Isleworth, Richmond Hill; Hastings to Margate, Hints River, Liber Notes (2) and Worcester and Shrewsbury sketchbooks (Tate; Turner Bequest XC, CXL, CXLI, CLIV a, CCXXXIX).
While not particularly close in detail, the present sketch is typical of those which would have informed the Literary Souvenir and England and Wales watercolours; the framing devices of a building (The Wick) on the left and trees in the foreground on the right are seen in the latter design.4 There are related views on folio 6 recto opposite (D18604), and folios 6 verso, 41 recto, 82 recto, 88 recto and verso, 89 verso, 90 recto and verso and 91 recto (D18605, D18645, D18692, D18698, D18699, D1870–D18704). See also the figure study on folio 9 verso (D18610).

Matthew Imms
December 2014

Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.106–7 no.140, pl.145 (colour).
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.359 no.518, pl.135.
Ibid., p.403 no.879, reproduced.
See Shanes 1979, p.156, and Shanes 2004, p.128; Shanes 2000, p.180, makes a connection with the Literary Souvenir version.

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