Joseph Mallord William Turner

Trees beside the River Brent


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 87 × 117 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXIV 37

Catalogue entry

This sketch appears to be the direct source of the oil painting On the River Brent (private collection)1 and a watercolour version of almost the same size, View on the River Brent (private collection).2 The sketchy lines of the trunk and branches of the nearest tree can be followed with slight variations in both works, where the zigzag along the water’s edge becomes a bed of reeds. The hillside is continued a little to the left on folio 36 verso opposite (D08008) and the river to the right on folio 38 recto (D08010). The sketches running from folio 28 recto (D07999) onwards, particularly that on folios 34 verso–35 recto (D41527, D08006), were perhaps made nearby.
The River Brent meanders south through what is now north-west London before merging with the Grand Union Canal at Hanwell and flowing into the Thames at Brentford to the south-east, near Isleworth and Kew; the general area was well known to Turner and a source of many works.3 The Brent’s confluence with the canal is just east of the site traditionally identified as the location of Turner’s oil Grand Junction Canal at Southall Mill, exhibited at his gallery in 1810 (currently untraced);4 there are sketches relating to that painting on folios 71 verso–72 recto and 72 verso–73 recto (D08053–D08056).
The oil version of the present scene has been dated by Butlin and Joll to about 1807–9 by stylistic comparison with Hurley House on the Thames (private collection),5 itself dated by its similarities with Cliveden on Thames, which was possibly exhibited in 1807 (Tate N01180),6 although further comparisons are made with Cockermouth Castle, exhibited in 1810 and taken from drawings of 1809 (Tate T03879; displayed at Petworth House, Sussex).7 Hence a date of about 1809 or 1810 seems feasible for the Brent oil; the watercolour, probably made as a fairly free replica, was dated ‘?c.1807’ by Andrew Wilton when it had been long untraced.8 Butlin and Joll accepted this dating when it subsequently reappeared,9 but assuming the present drawing is the source for both the oil and the watercolour, they cannot have been made earlier than 1808 (the watermarked date on other pages in this sketchbook), and Edward Yardley has put the watercolour as late as about 1815–22.10
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.124–5 no.198, pl.198.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.347 no.417.
See David Hill, Turner on the Thames: River Journeys in the Year 1805, New Haven and London 1993.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.72–3 no.101, pl.108 (colour); Martin Butlin, ‘Lost, stolen and destroyed works’, in Evelyn Joll, Butlin and Luke Herrmann eds., The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, p.178, as stolen in 1991.
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.124 no.197, pl.197.
Ibid., pp.51–2 no.66, pl.76.
Ibid., p.77 no.108, pl.115 (colour).
Wilton 1979, p.347.
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.125.
Edward Yardley, ‘The Turner Collector: “That Munificent Gentleman” – James Rivington Wheeler’, vol.6, no.2, Turner Studies, Winter 1986, p.56, with watercolour reproduced as ill.8.

Matthew Imms
January 2012

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