Joseph Mallord William Turner

The River Thames from Richmond Hill; Figure Studies


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 114 × 188 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXII 90 a

Catalogue entry

Inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation, across the left-hand half is a view west over the River Thames from Richmond Hill, continuing a little way across folio 91 recto opposite (D18704). See under folio 5 verso (D18603) for other views in this sketchbook and related works. The present sketch is among those which would have generally informed two watercolours: Richmond Hill of about 1825 (Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight),1 engraved in 1826 for the Literary Souvenir (Tate impression: T06132); and Richmond Terrace, Surrey of about 1836 (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool),2 engraved in 1838 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impressions: T04611, T06128). The house with tall chimneys and the smaller building on this page are comparable with those on the right of the Literary Souvenir version.
To the right, and apparently drawn on a different occasion, are figure studies. They may have been observed at Richmond, or later; in August 1825 Turner was abroad in the Low Countries, and it is possible that some of the drawings at each end of the sketchbook, including figure studies, may relate to that visit (see the Introduction). The figures seen from the back at the top, with broad flat hats and cloaks or capes, are shown again below, and may be in some form of ceremonial ecclesiastical, legal or academic dress, while the figure at the bottom right appears to be in archaic military gear. Unfortunately, Turner’s rapid annotations of colours and details verge on the illegible, as does the main inscription, evidently made at Richmond – an ‘Axiom’ presumably based on some observed effect, to the effect that whatever colour the reflection, it is only strengthened in some indecipherable manner. There is what may be a related note on folio 75 verso (D18684); see also folio 91 verso (D40972).
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.359 no.518, pl.135; see also Shanes 1979, p.156, and Shanes 2004, p.128.
Ibid., p.403 no.879, reproduced.
Technical notes:
There is a repair to a diagonal tear at the top left and another at the bottom left of the drawing, along the gutter.
There are traces of blue pigment across the top right, which were probably offset from a watercolour study on the missing outer part of folio 91 recto opposite (D18704), where some more deliberate-looking traces of what may be the edge of a sky or cloud study remain on the surviving inner half.

Matthew Imms
December 2014

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