Joseph Mallord William Turner

Wycliffe, on the River Tees near Rokeby

1816

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 125 x 206 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D11482
Turner Bequest CXLVII 26

Catalogue entry

This sketch is taken from the bank of the River Tees, looking downstream, several hundred yards north-west of Wycliffe Hall. Turner continued the sketch to the right on the verso (D11484) to include part of Wycliffe village and a cart passing on the lane. The sketch formed the basis of a studio watercolour Wycliffe, near Rokeby (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool)1 engraved for Thomas Dunham Whitaker’s History of Richmondshire, part of the projected seven-volume General History of the County of York (see Introduction to the sketchbook) and published in 1823. Wycliffe Hall was reputedly the birthplace John Wycliffe (1324–1384), the famous reformer and translator of the Bible. In the watercolour, Turner introduced some geese and an effect of sunrise which he described as allegorical of overfed priests and the dawn of the Reformation.2
Wycliffe Hall stands on the south bank of the Tees less than two miles east (downstream) of Rokeby. The earliest parts probably date back to the thirteenth century, other substantial sections to the fifteenth. Enlarged and remodelled successively over the centuries, the house is today privately owned and is not open to the public. However, Turner’s view can be readily accessed using public footpaths. The present writer has dated Turner’s sketches in the Wycliffe area to Thursday 1 August 1816.

David Hill
February 2009

1
Wilton 1979, p.365 no.568.
2
See Hill 1984 p.70, and Eric Shanes, Turner’s Human Landscape, 1990, pp.17–21. The story has been considered by many scholars.

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