Joseph Mallord William Turner

View of Nuneham Courtenay from the Thames


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache, graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 320 × 451 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest I B

Technique and condition

The paper used for this composition is an off-white, laid writing paper made with a single-faced mould. Its watermark reads ‘I Taylor’ and it was made by James Taylor at Poll Mill in Maidstone, Kent. The image has been painted on the wire side of the sheet using ink and watercolour with a pencil under-drawing.1
‘Although from the same maker as [Tate D00001; Turner Bequest I A], this is a half sheet from a different batch of paper, made on a larger mould, probably Demy Writing (approximately 22½ x 17 inches [572 x 432 mm]) or Medium Writing (23 x 18 inches [585 x 458 mm)’. Bower goes on to note that interestingly at this early date Turner is already experimenting with different papers even from the same maker. As merchants and stationers stocked papers from specific mills it is possible this sheet, and the other Taylor papers form the period, were purchased together from the same supplier.2
The windows have been painted freehand and there is no pencil under-drawing. The grey-black border around this picture was painted last. The green in the foreground has been created with a single mixed wash made from a mixture of fine-grained yellow and blue pigments, whereas the green of the trees has been created by mixing a coarse yellow lake with (probably) brown ochre and black; in the distance another yellow and blue mixture was used to create another shade of green. Turner used his fingers to manipulate the paint, and left discernable fingerprints. Other pigments used include Indian yellow and another red lake. These last fade readily when exposed to light, and the rather blue tonality of the green foreground and the trees nearest to the house is likely to be due to fading of yellow from the mixed greens.

Helen Evans
July 2008

Revised by Joyce Townsend
January 2011

Peter Bower, ‘Turner’s Papers: A Catalogue of the Papers Used by J.M.W. Turner in the Turner Bequest, Clore Gallery, Tate Gallery. Part 1: 1787–1802: TB I–TB LXX’, 1994, Tate catalogue files, unpaginated.

Catalogue entry

Finberg knew this subject as ‘Clifton, Nuneham Harcourt, near Abingdon’. It is probably copied from a print. Paul Sandby had made a large oil painting of a very similar composition, showing Nuneham Harcourt seen from the Lock Cottages, one of a pair he sent to the inaugural exhibition of at the Society of Artists of Great Britain in 1760 (private collection);1 however, this was not apparently engraved. The care with which the details of the architecture are transcribed betrays Turner’s early concern for this aspect of topographical work. Compare the sketch of this view made on the spot in 1789 in the Oxford sketchbook (Tate D00022; Turner Bequest II 10), which is taken from a similar viewpoint but has the river and a sailing boat in the foreground. Townsend lists the pigments used in this view: see the introduction to the present section.
See John Bonehill and Stephen Daniels eds., Paul Sandby: Picturing Britain, exhibition catalogue, Nottingham Castle Museum 2009, p.202 no.84, reproduced in colour)
Blank; inscribed (in another hand?) ‘Do House from [?Grounds]’; in a later hand ‘Turner Unmounted, Vol. 92’; in another hand ‘127’.

Andrew Wilton
April 2012

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