J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Aesacus and Hesperie Sketchbook c.1817–19

Turner Bequest CLXIX 1–40a
Sketchbook bound in boards, covered in brown marbled, half-bound with reddish-brown spine and corners, with five rubbed gilt transverse rules to the spine
40 leaves and pastedowns of white wove paper
Various pages watermarked ‘J Whatman | Turkey Mills | 1817’; page size 87 x 119 mm
Made by Hollingworths at Turkey Mill, Maidstone, Kent
Inscribed by Turner on a label on the spine (since lost) ‘116 –’
Inscribed in an unknown hand in pencil ‘S59’ above centre on the front cover, and stamped in black ‘CLXIX’ top right
Numbered 223 as part of the Turner Schedule in 1854 and endorsed by the Executors of the Turner Bequest inside front cover (D40932)
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This sketchbook includes a wide range of drawings and notes. Some of the more generic sketches are effectively undatable, although there are various indications that the book was largely in use around 1817–19, as discussed in the individual entries. The notes relating to Turner’s Liber Studiorum series of landscape prints, which has prompted the placement of this sketchbook with other Liber-related material in the present catalogue, are inside the back cover (D40933). Inside the other cover (D40932) are drawings for the figure of Hesperie in the 1819 Liber engraving Aesacus and Hesperie. Finberg’s 1909 Turner Bequest Inventory title for the sketchbook follows John Ruskin’s endorsement on its wrapper (since lost): ‘Invent. 257. Study for figure in Æsacus and Hesperie | Study for figure in Æsacus and Hesperie. Otherwise valueless’. Turner’s own label on the spine, also lost, was inscribed simply ‘116 –’.1 See also the present author’s detailed Introduction to the section of this catalogue covering the watercolour studies for the series (‘Liber Studiorum c.1806–24’).2
It is possible that Turner took this book with him on his 1817 tour of Belgium, the River Rhine in Germany and Holland (largely covered elsewhere in this catalogue). The unidentified hills or mountains on folios 5 recto, 5 verso, 37 recto and 37 verso (D13759, D13760, D13808, D13809) are perhaps comparable with the swelling yet jagged outlines characteristic of the settings of many of the fifty or fifty-one Rhine watercolours (since dispersed to many public and private collections)3 immediately resulting from the tour. The figure studies on folio 37 recto (D13807) also have a Continental air. There is a list of Rhine subjects on folio 35 recto (D13804), while the obscure notes on folio 36 verso (D13806) seem to be notes regarding a German itinerary, although Italy, to which Turner travelled in 1819, is also mentioned. On folios 7 recto and verso and 8 recto (D13763–D13765) there are notes in the hands of both Turner and his publisher W.B. Cooke, drafting arrangements for a projected but rapidly abandoned set of Rhine engravings.
On folios 1, 39 verso and 40 verso D13751, D13811, D13813 are studies of weapons relating to the frontispiece of Cooke’s Views in Sussex series, engraved in 1819, while the notes on folios 30 recto and 36 recto (D13797, D13805) record work in progress on the project. For more on Turner’s work in the county, see David Blayney Brown’s Introduction to the ‘East Sussex c.1806–20’ section of the present catalogue. Other miscellaneous plans and studies including costumes are on folios 2 recto, 3 recto, 11 recto, 25 recto and 34 verso (D13753, D13755, D13768, D13788, D13803).
There are sketches which were made, with varying degrees of certainty, around Turner’s familiar haunt of Richmond upon Thames, west of London, and a related draft of poetry. The latter is on folio 1 verso (D13752), with the sketches, some of which may relate to the large painting England: Richmond Hill, on the Prince Regent’s Birthday, exhibited in 1819 (Tate N00502),4 following on folio 2 recto, between folios 16 verso–19 recto, 25 verso–26 recto and 28 verso–29 recto (D13753, D13776–D13781, D13789, D13790, D13795, D13796). There are cloud studies on folios 2 verso–3, 13 verso, 14 verso–15, 33 verso and 34 recto (D13754, D13755, D13771, D13773, D13774, D13801, D13802). There are numerous cloud sketches and Richmond studies, probably of similar dates, in the Liber Notes (2) sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest CLIV a), also included in the present Liber-related section of the catalogue.
Extensive notes concerning Royal Academy exhibitions and business dated or datable to 1819 appear on folios 1 verso, 4 recto and verso, 6 recto, 6 verso, 24 verso, 39 recto and 40 recto (D13752, D13757, D13758, D13761, D13762, D13787, D13810, D13812). At the General Meeting on 10 December 1818, Turner (Royal Academician since 1802 and Professor of Perspective since 1807) had been elected to the Academy’s Council, to oversee the running of the institution for the coming year.5 He had served on the Council several times before, and would do so again, as well as undertaking a variety of other duties during his Academy career.6
The somewhat scrawled notes on folios 26 verso–28 recto (D13791–D13794) appear to relate to a property dispute, while there are unidentified accounts on folio 3 verso (D13756) and further calculations inside the back cover (D40933).
Finberg 1909, I, p.488.
See in addition the notes and transcriptions from this sketchbook in Forrester 1996, pp.14, 26 note 136, 128 under no.66.
Wilton 1979, pp.374–9 nos.636–86, mostly reproduced; the disputed work, Wilton no.678, is larger and on different paper and may date from around 1819–20: see Evelyn Joll in [Kate Oldfield (ed.)], Agnew’s 1982–1992, London 1992, p.162, as cited and discussed in Cecilia Powell, Turner in Germany, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1995, pp.101–2.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.106–7 no.140, Pl.145 (colour).
See Alexander J. Finberg, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A. Second Edition, Revised, with a Supplement, by Hilda F. Finberg, revised ed., Oxford 1961, pp.254–5.
See the listing in Eric Shanes, ‘Royal Academy of Arts, London’ in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann (eds.), The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, pp.271–2.

Matthew Imms
September 2013

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How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Aesacus and Hesperie Sketchbook c.1817–19’, sketchbook, September 2013, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, September 2014, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/aesacus-and-hesperie-sketchbook-r1147472, accessed 24 May 2024.