Joseph Mallord William Turner

Trees by Water: ?Similar to ‘Glaucus and Scylla’ and ‘Chryses’


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Pen and ink on paper
Support: 150 × 258 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XC 61 a

Catalogue entry

This slight sketch of trees has not so far attracted comment. It can be understood when seen in relation to the even slighter outline on folio 69 of the sketchbook (D05597), depicting a bay with sunlight reflected in its waters and trees on a promontory beyond. The trees and supporting rocks beginning to take shape here would complete the largely blank right portion of folio 69. Hill1 compares folio 69 to studies in the Wey, Guildford sketchbook (Tate D06184, D06185, D06187; Turner Bequest XCVIII 3 verso, 4 and possibly 5 verso) which served as the basis for the watercolour Chryses, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1811 (private collection).2 Chryses took its subject from Homer’s Iliad; see especially folio 34 (D05541) for the story and other treatments of it by Turner.
In the light of the various sketches in this sketchbook for subjects from Ovid’s Metamorphoses (see note to folio 54 (D05575)), comparison might also be made with the unpublished Liber Studiorum plate Glaucus and Scylla which illustrated Ovid. However, neither of the cursory sketches in this sketchbook yet includes figures and they might be early ideas for a composition whose narrative content was still to be decided. As Eric Shanes and Andrew Wilton have pointed out, Chryses and Glaucus and Scylla share compositional sources including Claude’s Sea of Galilee with Christ Calling Peter and Andrew and Coast Scene with the Origin of Coral, which Turner would have known from Richard Earlom’s 1777 engravings of Claude’s Liber Veritatis.3 The present sketchbook provides plentiful evidence of Turner considering alternative classical themes, and his working drawing for the Liber design is not only inscribed ‘Departure of Theseus’ but also has traces of a Chryses-like figure, rubbed out in the foreground (Tate D08170; Vaughan Bequest CXVIII P).

David Blayney Brown
August 2007

Hill 1993, p.162.
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, p.356 no.492.
Eric Shanes, Turner’s Human Landscape, London 1990, pp.207–10 and Andrew Wilton and Rosalind Mallord Turner, Painting and Poetry: Turner’s ‘Verse Book’ and his Work of 1804–12, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1990, p.142. See also Gillian Forrester, Turner’s ‘Drawing Book’: The Liber Studiorum, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1996, p.136 note 6.

Read full Catalogue entry


You might like

In the shop