253. [N03133] Tynemouth Priory c. 1820–5?
THE TATE GALLERY, LONDON (3133)
Canvas, 12 1/2 × 24 (32 × 61)
Coll. Turner Bequest 1856; transferred to the Tate Gallery 1935.
Lit. Ziff 1980, p. 167.
The subject was formerly tentatively identified as Woodspring Priory, close to the Somerset coast a few miles north of Weston-super-Mare, but has been demonstrated by Nicholas Cooper of the National Monuments Record (letter of 10 March 1976) to show Tynemouth Priory. The late twelfth-century east wall of the chancel is framed by an arch just as in the engraving by J. Sands after T. Allom and can still be recognised today, though the extension to the left and the classical urn, added by Turner after he had already completed the landscape background, may be his own invention.
Turner visited Tynemouth in 1797 (see the ‘North of England’ sketchbook, XXXIV-35, repr. in colour Wilkinson 1972, p. 45, and the more finished water-colour XXXIII-T) and later included Tynemouth in the Picturesque Views in England and Wales 1827–38, but no sketch related to this painting is known. Nor can the date of this very liquidly painted, almost (and unusually for Turner) Rubensian sketch be more than guessed at: the urn, delicate trees and general lack of weight recall such exhibited oils of the 1820s as What You Will! (R. A. 1822, No. 229) and View from the Terrace of a Villa at Niton (R.A. 1826; No. 234), but the picture might also be as early as the small Thames sketches on mahogany veneer of c. 1807, Nos. 177–94. Jerrold Ziff, in his review of the first edition of this catalogue, gives his ‘waivering [sic] preference’ to the later dating in the 1820s.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984