Joseph Mallord William Turner

Vale of Pickering, Yorkshire, with Huntsmen


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 192 × 244 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXI Q

Technique and condition

There are traces of graphite pencil drawing in this painting on white wove paper, to outline the curves of the hills. The green areas are the result of mixing indigo with brown and yellow earth pigments. Indigo has been used for the sky and cobalt blue for the stream. The work has been exposed to too much light while covered by a window mount which protected the edges. This has caused the light-sensitive indigo to fade from the sky and the mixed greens in the middle ground, which would in any case have had more blue than yellow in the mix to portray the hazy distance. The yellow-rich foreground greens are less faded, and the river has not altered in tone, since it was painted with cobalt blue, which is very stable. This material was made first in France early in the nineteenth century, and Turner seems to have got hold of it in 1806–7, despite hostilities and trade disruption between Britain and France, when he used it in oil sketches for skies. Its clear greenish blue tone shows to advantage against the reserve of white paper kept for painting the river. This is an early example of its use in watercolour.
The brown earth pigments mixed into the greens create the soil of the river bank. Vermillion has been used for the huntsmen’s jackets, which have been emphasised using gum; the huntsmen are very detailed. The less-detailed hounds were created by washing off landscape paint with a brush-load of water, then applying brown earth pigment rapidly in a single wash, onto the part-exposed paper. The foreground horse was created by this method, followed by more careful painting of its dappled coat, with tiny stipples of wash onto dried paper. These are all stable pigments, and there is no loss of colour in any of these areas.

Helen Evans
October 2008

Revised by Joyce Townsend
February 2011


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