Joseph Mallord William Turner

Trees by the River Thames ?at Isleworth, with Syon House in the Distance; Figures on a Boat with Eel-Traps


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 70

Catalogue entry

Inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation, this vigorous study of trees by water continues a little way onto folio 69 verso opposite (D18676), where what may be Syon House, on the River Thames north-east of Isleworth, is seen in the distance; compare folio 47 recto (D18652). See also the tree study labelled ‘Isleworth’ on folio 16 verso (D18619).
At the bottom left relative to the main sketch, but made with the page turned vertically, is a small annotated vignette of figures on a boat loaded with objects with round profiles. The second line refers to grig- or ground-wheels, types of basket traps for eels; the terminology is associated with the south of England, and the River Thames in particular.1 Fishing was a favourite hobby of Turner’s,2 and there are other studies of eel-trapping in the Thames Valley; see drawings of about 1807 in the River sketchbook (Tate D05979; Turner Bequest XCVI 18), about 1807–19 in the Studies for Liber sketchbook (Tate D08086; Turner Bequest CXV 3), and about 1808–10 in the Tabley No.3 sketchbook (Tate D07130; Turner Bequest CV 92).
See Andrew Herd, ‘The Fine Art of Trapping Eels’, The Fishing Museum Online, accessed 22 December 2014,
See James Hamilton, ‘Fishing’ in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann (eds.), The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, p.110.

Matthew Imms
December 2014

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