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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Jason sketchbook c.1800–1

Turner Bequest LXI 1–63
Sketchbook bound in boards covered in calf leather with gold-tooled edges and spine; one brass clasp
64 leaves including front flyleaf, 11 of coarse off-white wove paper, 41 of white wove paper and 11 of coarse off-white wove paper; page size 206 x 131 mm; white paper watermarked ‘1794 | J Whatman
Numbered 146 as part of the Turner Schedule in 1854, and endorsed by the Executors of the Turner Bequest, Henry Scott Trimmer, Charles Lock Eastlake and John Prescott Knight in ink ‘No 146 | H.S. Trimmer’ and in pencil ‘C.L.E.’ and ‘JPK’ on recto of front flyleaf, top centre
Stamped in black ‘LXI’ inside front cover, top left
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This sketchbook derives its name from the drawing on folio 63 verso (D03716; Turner Bequest LXI 60a), now the last page in the book, which was for long thought to be related to the landscape background of Turner’s painting Jason, a work he showed at the Royal Academy in 1802 (Tate N00471).1 In other respects the book has elements in common with the Swans and Salisbury sketchbooks (Tate; Turner Bequest XLII, XLIX) which have similar bindings, and with the Studies for Pictures sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest LXIX) which has landscape sketches in pencil similar to those on folios 3 recto, 4 recto and 6 recto here (D03655, D03656, D03720; Turner Bequest LXI 3, 4, 63). There are also plant studies, as there are in both the Studies for Pictures sketchbook and the Egyptian Details sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest LXVI). John Ruskin was enthusiastic about such examples of Turner’s drawing from natural details, and these pages were removed for exhibition in the nineteenth century. However, like Egyptian Details, this book contains many unused leaves.
There are notes of compositions by Gaspard Dughet (1615–1675), just as there is a copy after Claude Lorrain (1604/5–1682) in the Studies for Pictures book (Tate D04139; Turner Bequest LXIX 122). The use of a ground tint on many of the pages suggests that Turner planned to use it to generate new compositions, as he was doing on blue paper in the Studies for Pictures book. It is curious that the only such study in the book, that supposedly for Jason already noted, is a slight pencil sketch that explores tonality hardly at all. But it was not uncommon for Turner’s sketchbooks to start life with a specific function or designation which he failed follow up.
Finberg records Turner’s ‘label on back [i.e. the spine]: “24 Studies.”’,2 since lost, and John Ruskin’s comment on a wrapper: ‘146. An early book with half a dozen sketches in pencil of some interest – but poor subjects.’3
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.18 no.19, pl.15.
Finberg 1909, I, p.163.

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

Revised by Matthew Imms
March 2015

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How to cite

Andrew Wilton, ‘Jason sketchbook c.1800–1’, sketchbook, May 2013, revised by Matthew Imms, March 2015, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, April 2016, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/jason-sketchbook-r1178034, accessed 18 May 2022.