Joseph Mallord William Turner

View of Fonthill Abbey


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 1055 × 711 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXX P

Catalogue entry

This is probably an uncompleted watercolour for the series of five watercolour views of Fonthill executed for William Beckford in 1799–1800 and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1800 (private collection; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Montréal Museum of Fine Arts; National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh; Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester),1 though it differs from any of the finished works in being upright in format. For work relating to that commission see notes on the Fonthill sketchbook, especially the entry for Tate D02178 (Turner Bequest XLVII 1). As with many of Turner’s experimental watercolour studies of this period the use of pencil is minimal, though he has used that medium to delineate precisely the broad outlines of the house itself, without working up that portion of the design.
It seems on the evidence of various studies that Turner considered using the upright format in an at least one of the five views, though the finished set uses only the horizontal format: a smaller colour study is in the Fonthill sketchbook (Tate D02187; Turner Bequest XLVII 10), and a composition study is in the Dolbadarn sketchbook (Tate D02153; Turner Bequest XLVI 107). See the latter entry for the argument that this is a view from the south-west. These drawings all probably contributed to Turner’s preparations for the final 1800 watercolour South-west view of a Gothic Abbey (Morning) now building at Fonthill, the seat of W. Beckford Esq. (Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto).2 For another large study possibly related to the Fonthill project see Tate D04172 (Turner Bequest LXX U).
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.338 nos.335–339, reproduced, and pl.53.
Ibid., no.336, reproduced.

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

Read full Catalogue entry


You might like

In the shop