Joseph Mallord William Turner

Windsor Castle from the Thames


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 222 × 295 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXVIII e

Display caption

This drawing of Windsor Castle from Salt Hill was made for an unpublished plate for Turner's series of illustrations of different types of landscape composition, the Liber Studiorum. This included numerous examples of British scenery. As a royal residence and a picturesque castle, Windsor was both the focus of patriotic sentiment and the climax of the contemporary tourist's Thames itinerary. Turner nevertheless places it in a hazy distance, juxtaposed with a humble scene of sheep-washing in the foreground.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

The present drawing has traditionally been categorised as an unengraved design for the Liber Studiorum, and is based on Turner’s oil painting Windsor Castle from the Thames, circa 1805, which entered Lord Egremont’s collection at an undetermined but probably early date (Tate T03870, displayed at Petworth House, West Sussex).1 Other Liber studies (Tate D08114, D08168; Turner Bequest CXVI M, Vaughan Bequest CXVIII N) relate to Turner’s paintings in Egremont’s collection; as do the unpublished prints Narcissus and Echo,2 for which no drawing is known, and (at one remove, from Turner’s painting based on Egremont’s Claude) Apullia in Search of Appullus.3
Turner had made many studies of Windsor during his time living down the Thames at Isleworth in 1805,4 and appended the place-name to his signature on the painting. There are ‘one or two minor architectural peculiarities’ as compared with the latter, with a flagpole now visible on the turret and the Round Tower above the trees to the right.5 Turner may have been working from memory, but probably had recourse to the watercolour study in his Studies for Pictures: Isleworth sketchbook (Tate D05532; Turner Bequest XC 29 a) which he followed in most points in the oil. As compared to them both, the composition here been compressed by about a third, with the sheep, figures and quay all translated to the left in the ‘foresquare planar structure’,6 the boats beyond them omitted, and with individual elements looming larger; there are similar adaptations in other Liber drawings at one remove from existing compositions, for instance the composition known as Ships in a Breeze (for drawing see Tate D08114; Turner Bequest CXVI M). The painting has been described in Liber terminology as ‘one of the most “epic” of Turner’s pastorals’, with the shepherdess ‘more like a ballerina’.7
The composition is possibly recorded, as ‘ditto [Egremonts] Thames’, at the end of a list of published and unpublished ‘EP’ subjects in the Liber Notes (2) sketchbook (Tate D12163; Turner Bequest CLIV (a) 27);8 these notes (D12160–D12171; CLIV (a) 25a–31) were apparently made between 1808 and as late as 1818.9 Gillian Forrester also gives an alternative – as suggested by Finberg10The Thames at Eton, exhibited at Turner’s gallery in 1808 and also in Lord Egremont’s collection (Tate T03873, displayed at Petworth House, West Sussex),11 though no Liber-type drawing relating to the latter is known.12
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.113 no.149, pl.156 (colour).
W[illiam] G[eorge] Rawlinson, Turner’s Liber Studiorum, A Description and a Catalogue, London 1878, p.168 no.90; ... Second Edition, Revised Throughout, London 1906, pp.195 no.90; Alexander J. Finberg, The History of Turner’s Liber Studiorum with a New Catalogue Raisonné, London 1924, pp.359–61 no.90.
Ibid.: 1878, pp.144–5 no.72; 1906, pp.169–70 no.72; 1924, pp.287–90 no.72.
See David Hill, Turner on the Thames: River Journeys in the Year 1805, New Haven and London 1993, pp.63–75.
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.113.
Andrew Wilton, in Wilton and Turner 1990, p.138.
Hill 1993, pp.132, 133.
Finberg 1909, I, p.442 (transcribed); Finberg 1924, p.xxxix (transcribed); Forrester 1996, p.162 (transcribed).
Forrester 1996, pp.161–3 (transcribed).
Finberg 1924, p.xxxix.
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.55 no.71, pl.81.
Forrester 1996, pp.136–7, 162.
Ibid., p.136.
Wilton and Turner 1990, p.138.
Forrester 1996, p.137 and note 10.
Miniature Edition, 1911, p.[3].
Finberg 1909, I, p.316.
Ibid., p.324.
Miniature Edition, 1911, pp.[3–4], reproduced p.125 no.101?? [sic].
Rothenstein 1951, p.[2].
Forrester 1996, p.136 (analysis by Peter Bower, acknowledged p.8).
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files.

Matthew Imms
May 2006

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