Joseph Mallord William Turner

Tracing of a Perspective Construction of a House


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Pen and ink and graphite on paper
Support: 565 × 767 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCV 81

Catalogue entry

This tracing, overlaid with some perspective construction, was made from a preparatory drawing of a house in perspective (Tate D17053; Turner Bequest CXCV 83) while Turner was preparing for his lectures as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy. Maurice Davies finds the preparation of the diagrams associated with this tracing to be unusual:
For complex lecture diagrams [Turner] normally first carried out a very careful pencil and ink drawing, based on a detailed perspective construction. He then traced the outlines of the drawing and added a simplified version of the main details of the construction to give the lecture diagram. He sometimes enlarged the tracing, possibly using a pantography, or possibly the eye. Even in the latter case he normally kept the viewpoint in exactly the same position. In addition to the lecture diagram showing the construction, he sometimes also prepared a watercolour of the results, also based on the tracing. For diagram 36, he seems to have begun to follow his normal procedure: there is a carefully prepared pencil construction [D17053; Turner Bequest 83], a watercolour based on a tracing made from this [D17052; Turner Bequest CXCV 82; also numbered 36] and a further tracing overlaid with some details of a perspective construction [the present D17051]. However, the latter was abandoned incomplete (the partially shown construction appears to be incorrect in yet another way). The diagram Turner eventually completed [Diagram 36; Tate D17050; Turner Bequest CXCV 80] is not based on the initial pencil drawing. The angle of view of the building is different and it appears to have been drawn free-hand, possibly based on the small sketch in the first draft of the lecture.1 1 Several of the lines are not straight and the sides of the building do not recede accurately to the (incorrect!) vanishing points.2
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 F folio 5 verso.
Davies 1994, p.116.
Technical notes:
Peter Bower (unpublished notes)1 states that the sheet is Imperial size paper made by John Hayes and John Wise at Padsole Mill, Maidstone, Kent.
Notes in Tate catalogue files.

Andrea Fredericksen
June 2004

Revised by David Blayney Brown
January 2012

Read full Catalogue entry

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