Joseph Mallord William Turner

Young Anglers


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 185 × 265 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXVII I

Display caption

Turner’s treatment of landscape, closely studied from life, is rich with literary, historical and patriotic allusions. He described this work as a ‘Pastoral’. The scene is near the ‘Jew’s Harp’ tea garden in London’s Regent’s Park.

Blake rarely drew from nature. As far as we know, he never saw ‘England’s mountains green’ that he refers to in Jerusalem. In the illuminated book also called Jerusalem Blake mentions the same spot in the context of innocence, its loss and then the final redemption of England: ‘The Jews-harp-house... The Ponds where Boys to bathe delight’.

Gallery label, December 2004

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Catalogue entry

Etching and mezzotint by Turner and Robert Dunkarton, ‘Young Anglers’, published Turner, 1 June 1811
Along with Juvenile Tricks and Marine Dabblers (see Tate D08127, D08133; Turner Bequest CXVI Z, CXVII F) this composition is one of three Liber Studiorum subjects showing boys playing. Turner’s subtitle for the present composition in his notebook (see below), ‘Jews Harp’, refers to a London public house and/or tea gardens in ‘Love Lane, Marylebone Fields’,1 not far to the north of Harley Street and Queen Anne Street West in Marylebone where Turner lived and exhibited his work. The site, recalled approvingly by William Blake in Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion together with ‘Ponds where Boys to bathe delight’,2 was then on the semi-rural fringes of the growing West End, in the area later developed as Regent’s Park.3 Several contemporary views of buildings and a neighbouring pond in a rural setting (Guildhall Library Print Room, London, p5389089, p5386429, p5389586, p538957x, p5389592) are said to show the Jew’s Harp – or the nearby Queen’s Head and Artichoke Inn – but do not closely resemble the houses drawn by Turner. Gillian Forrester has discussed the composition in the contexts of the expansion of urban London during the early nineteenth century and the work of rising younger artists such as David Wilkie, and William Mulready with his ‘picturesque sub-urban pastoral’4
Jack Lindsay has noted various instances of Turner’s sympathetic interest in children’s waterside play.5 With his usual condescension towards Turner’s depiction of everyday figures, Stopford Brooke described the boys investigating the contents of a watering can as ‘coarse, and coarsely drawn; but they are true to their type, and Turner never gilded the poor. ... The one graceful figure is that of the working man fishing near the tree; and he is graceful because he knows his work. It is the true attitude of the fisherman.’6 In private, Ruskin had taken ‘the sport of children about a willowy pond’7 as one aspect of Turner’s broad sympathy for humanity, but had later decided that in such Liber subjects ‘the commonplace prevails to an extent greatly destructive of the value of the series, ... introducing rather discord than true opponent emotion among the grander designs’.8 In Modern Painters, he used the Liber engraving as an example of Turner’s prowess in tree drawing, with its ‘piece of pollard willow’ clearly demonstrating ‘the main tendencies of its growth.’9
Finberg 1924, p.127.
Quoted in Forrester 1996, p.91; see Morton D. Paley ed., William Blake: Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion, Blake’s Illuminated Books, vol.I, London 1991, p.170: ‘To the Jews’, lines 13–14.
See Forrester 1996, p.91 and note 1, and also p.70.
Ibid, p.91 and note 3.
Jack Lindsay, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work: A Critical Biography, London 1966, p.17.
Brooke 1885, pp.[104], 105.
Letter to the Rev. H.G. Liddell, 12 October 1844, transcribed in Cook and Wedderburn III 1903, p.673.
Notes by Mr. Ruskin. ... On his Drawings by the Late J.M.W. Turner, R.A. ..., exhibition catalogue, Fine Art Society, London 1878, in ibid., XIII 1904, p.434.
Ibid., VII 1903, p.92; see also Rawlinson 1878, p.69.
Forrester 1996, pp.160–1 (transcribed).
Finberg 1924, p.xliii; Forrester 1996, pp.13–14.
Forrester 1996, p.161 (transcribed).
Rawlinson 1878, pp.69–76; 1906, pp.80–9; Finberg 1924, pp.125–44.
Forrester 1996, pp.70, 71 note 1 (paper analysis by Peter Bower, and pigment analysis by Joyce Townsend, acknowledged p.8).
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files.

Matthew Imms
August 2009

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