Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Ruins of Kirkstall Abbey at Night


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In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 214 × 290 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXI H

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Both these studies can be traced back to pencil memoranda in the 1797 sketchbooks. In the case of the view of Bolton Abbey, Turner's drawing on the spot was little more than a hasty outline, which allowed him greater freedom in his imaginative realisation of the subject in watercolour. He seems to be experimenting in both works with the depiction of forms under subdued lighting conditions where the eye does not expect so much detail. In the view of Kirkstall Abbey he has attempted to transform an upright composition into a landscape format, but the resulting image does not entirely resolve the problems of scale and is such a distorted record of Kirkstall that it has resisted identification until now.

Gallery label, September 2004

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