Finberg described the relatively featureless, somewhat bleak and rain-swept setting of this ‘colour beginning’ as simply ‘The moors’.1 Eric Shanes noted the faint pencil inscription, somewhat randomly inverted near the centre, which he read as ‘Chev’, dating the sheet to about 1819 and suggesting a connection with the Chevin,2 the rocky escarpment on the south side of Wharfedale, above Otley and looking out over Farnley Hall, the home of Turner’s patron Walter Fawkes, to the north.
While there are numerous drawings and finished works set in the area, the pencil sketch which may have informed the present composition is Tate D12112 (Turner Bequest CLIV N), which David Hill notes in the present catalogue as probably made in 1808, and showing a view of the Wharfe Valley from Caley Park, Otley Chevin, with a stone quarry in the foreground and Farnley Hall in the distance to the right. The general sweep and recession of the wide valley appears to be followed here, while the loose, dark forms in the left foreground correspond with the rocky outcrops where figures are at work in the drawing.
The present sheet is dated here to about 1816–18, when Turner seems to have looked back at some of his earlier drawings to develop finished watercolours; see the entry for Tate D25219 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 97). The colouring and atmosphere here is similar to that of another moorland colour study of about this time, Tate D17189 (Turner Bequest CXCVI O).
The left-hand edge is trimmed rather jaggedly, suggesting that the sheet was cut from a sketchbook, the obvious candidate being the Large Farnley book (Tate; Turner Bequest CXXVIII), in use in the area in about 1816. While D17189, mentioned above, may well come from it, in the present case the horizontal measurement corresponds, but the sheet is a few millimetres taller than the bound pages, and the paper appears smoother and of a slightly lighter weight.
Blank; laid down.