Joseph Mallord William Turner

Verses (Inscription by Turner)

c.1816–19

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 95 x 155 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D10558
Turner Bequest CXL 75

Catalogue entry

Turner’s verses appear inverted according to the present foliation of the sketchbook. They are very hard to make out and the following reading is tentative and incomplete:
To him who found with proud skill
The blush of ...antiquity. Nature’s hues
To him who knew Richmond air heights
Trace to the grey mist, its blight cruel
Or the bridge and
The mind of art draw or
To thee some promise gives of
....rain on thy spring o Thames
in summer by light which ... descending gives
breadth and sublimity to thy pastoral scenery
      through
to thee with gratitude alone would urge some praising
should hope though the seasons continuing dissimilar
in gratitude demands some thought of him who
descending like the coeval cloud may shed
its chilling influence and disdain to my mind
     but its worth withheld
Turner seems to be evoking the poet James Thomson, author of The Seasons (1726–30) and associated with the scenery of Richmond. There is a further line, ‘By him was Richmond valued from its brow’, on the facing folio 82 verso (D10557; Turner Bequest CXL 74a). Turner must be thinking of writing his own epigraph for his picture England: Richmond Hill, on the Prince Regent’s Birthday (Tate N00502)1 exhibited at the Academy in 1819. However, in the event he exhibited it with lines from Thomson’s Summer describing scenery visible from the top of Richmond Hill.

David Blayney Brown
July 2011

1
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.106–7 no.140 (pl.145).

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