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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Bridge and Goats c.1806

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Bridge and Goats circa 1806
Turner Bequest CXVII R
Pen and ink, pencil and watercolour on off-white wove writing paper, 184 x 258 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Etching, aquatint and mezzotint by Turner and F.C. Lewis, untitled, published Turner, 23 April 1812
The present design is considered to have been one of the earliest made for the Liber Studiorum, given its tentative appearance, and derivative style and subject1 based on Richard Earlom’s prints after Claude’s Liber Veritatis drawings, which have been cited as the immediate inspiration for Turner’s own series (see general Liber introduction). The composition (albeit when engraved in reverse) has affinities with several of Liber Veritatis prints including nos.3 (Landscape with Brigands),2 7 (Pastoral Landscape),3 20 (Pastoral Landscape)4 and 34 (Landscape with Brigands ...).5
Consequently, it was dismissed by Ruskin as one of the Liber designs ‘modified by forced imitation of Claude ... All the worst and feeblest studies in the book ... owe the principal part of their imbecilities to Claude’.6 Stopford Brooke perceived an uneasiness in Turner’s combination of Claude and Nature, as he did in other compositions in Turner’s ‘EP’ category (likely to indicate ‘Elevated Pastoral’ – see general Liber introduction). After a lengthy passage praising the evocation of great distances in the composition, he declared: ‘This is the kind of thing Claude could not do, and the plate was done in rivalry with Claude. ... But it is just because it is work done in rivalry, and in the manner of his rival, that it is not successful rivalry. The imitation takes away some of Turner’s individuality’.7 He concluded it was ‘[h]alf nature then, half convention; half Turner, half pseudo-Claude’ and thus ‘disagreeable’.8
As outlined below, in the first edition of his Liber catalogue, Rawlinson had used letters from Turner and the aquatint specialist F.C. Lewis in relation to the composition to demonstrate that it had been the first to be engraved, in 1807 – although it was not published until 1812, when the series was well under way – and later refuted at length C.F. Bell’s published doubts on the issue.9 Finberg also cast doubt on Rawlinson’s claims, since Turner’s only dated letter to Lewis regarding the print post-dated the first published part of the Liber (with mezzotints by Charles Turner) by some months;10 however, as Gillian Forrester notes in her review of the evidence, this does not preclude the possibility that the plate had been in hand for some time, and that Rawlinson’s interpretation may well be correct.11
Rawlinson had noted that it ‘was to have been the first plate of the series, had the arrangement with F.C. Lewis for engraving the work ... been carried out.’12 He transcribed three letters from Turner to Lewis, the last dated December 1807, concerning the tribulations of interpreting an unspecified drawing in aquatint.13 Since the correspondence concludes with Turner expressing satisfaction with an aquatint proof,14 it is assumed that this was of Bridge and Goats, which turned out to be the only Liber plate that Lewis worked on. He later recalled that ‘my plate was the first that was engraved’ for the Liber, and expressed regret at not having been further involved.15 He had asked for his fee per plate to be raised from five to eight guineas16 in view of Turner’s idea that in future, in addition to Lewis putting in the mezzotint tonal work, he should also first transcribe the composition’s outline onto the copper plate and etch it17 (Turner having drawn it himself in this case, as he would do for most of the subsequent plates).
Lewis had apparently complained that Turner’s outline on the plate did not follow the original (the present drawing) sufficiently closely, thus making the precise addition of aquatint to transcribe the drawing’s tonality effectively impossible.18 Turner declined to increase the payment, and Lewis was also concerned that Turner expressed his intention to amend Lewis’s work with additional etching if he saw fit to do so on future plates; their association was therefore concluded.19 During the course of work on the plate of Bridge and Goats, Turner had provided Lewis with an impression of the etched outline worked up in washes to provide more exact guidance;20 this was presumably the sheet which survives in the Turner Bequest (Tate D08147; Turner Bequest CXVII S). Lewis’s complaint is understandable, in that there is barely a line in the present drawing that was transcribed with any precision in Turner’s etching, and indeed he made significant changes including the positions of the goats, alterations to the branches of the trees, the realignment of the towers on the left in relation to the horizon, and revisions to the figures. (These can be readily compared in Finberg’s catalogue, as he fortuitously reproduced the drawing in reverse, juxtaposed with both the etching and the finished mezzotint.)21
The published plate was untitled; the present title is the customary one established by early scholars and collectors of the Liber, and codified in print in 1872.22 The composition is recorded, as ‘6[:] 2 Boy drvg Sheep. Lewis’, in the Liber Notes (2) sketchbook (Tate D12157; Turner Bequest CLIV (a) 24), in a draft schedule of the first ten parts of the Liber (D12156–D12158; CLIV (a) 23a–24a)23 dated by Finberg and Gillian Forrester to before the middle of 1808.24 It also appears later in the sketchbook, as ‘Lewis Sheep’, in a list of published and unpublished ‘EP’ subjects (Tate D12162; Turner Bequest CLIV (a) 26a).25
The Liber Studiorum etching and aquatint (strengthened in the foreground with mezzotint), etched by Turner and engraved by F.C. Lewis, bears the publication date 23 April 1812 and was issued to subscribers in part 9 (Rawlinson/Finberg nos.42–46;26 see also Tate D08145, D08147–D08149; Turner Bequest CXVII Q, S, T, Vaughan Bequest CXVII U). Tate holds impressions of the preliminary outline etching (Tate A00996) and the published engraving (A00997). It is one of eleven published Liber Studiorum subjects in Turner’s ‘EP’ category (see also drawings Tate D08103, D08112, D08117, D08122, D08128, D08132, D08137, D08141, D08147, D08152, D08155, D08159, D08163, D08168; Turner Bequest CXVI B, K, P, U, CXVII A, E, J, N, S, X, CXVIII A, Vaughan Bequest CXVIII E, I, N).
James Hamilton records a related pen and ink study, which he found among works on paper by Mary Somerville, a scientist friend of Turner’s to whom he perhaps gave it, in a family collection.27
Towards the end of his career, Turner used this composition (reversed, as in the print) as the basis of one of a series of oil paintings reinterpreting the Liber, perhaps prompted by his limited reprinting of the engravings in 1845 (see general Liber introduction); the painting, The Ponte delle Torri, Spoleto, is in the Turner Bequest (Tate N02424).28 It is a freer reworking than others in the series, and may be a combination of the generic Liber landscape with recollections of the real Italian location of the title, which Turner first visited in 1819.
Rawlinson 1878, pp.88–9; 1906, p.105.
Liber Veritatis; or a Collection of Prints after the Original Designs of Claude Le Lorrain ..., London 1777, vol.I, pl.3; from mid 1630s original drawing by Claude Lorrain (British Museum, London, 1957–12–14–9: Michael Kitson, Claude Lorrain: Liber Veritatis, London 1978, p.49, reproduced pl.3).
Liber Veritatis, vol.I, pl.7; from 1636 drawing (BM 1957–12–14–13: Kitson, pp.55–6, reproduced pl.17).
Ibid., I, pl.20; from 1637–8 drawing (BM 1957–12–14–26: Kitson, p.64, reproduced pl.20).
Ibid., I, pl.34; from 1638–9 drawing (BM 1957–12–14–40: Kitson, pp.73–4, reproduced pl.34).
Cook and Wedderburn V 1904, p.399.
Brooke 1885, p.143.
Ibid., p.144.
Rawlinson 1906, pp.104–5 note 1.
Finberg 1924, pp.lviii–ix; see also p.l.
Forrester 1996, pp.10–11, 104.
Rawlinson 1878, p.89.
Ibid., pp.182–4, letters nos.1–3; Gage 1980, pp.31–4, letters nos.18, 19, 21.
Gage 1980, p.33.
F.C. Lewis, letter to John Pye, 3 October 1850, transcribed in Rawlinson 1878, p.185, letter no.4.
Gage 1980, pp.33–4; see also Thornbury 1862, I, p.270.
Gage 1980, p.32.
Inferred from Turner’s letter, ibid.
Ibid., p.33–4; Rawlinson 1878, p.185; see also accounts in Pye and Roget 1879, pp.49–55; and see Finberg 1961, pp.139–40.
Gage 1980, p.32.
Finberg 1924, pp.[170], 171.
[Taylor and Vaughan] 1872, p.34 no.43.
Forrester 1996, pp.160–1 (transcribed).
Finberg 1924, p.xliii; Forrester 1996, pp.13–14.
Forrester 1996, p.161 (transcribed).
Rawlinson 1878, pp.86–96; 1906, pp.101–13; Finberg 1924, pp.165–84.
Hamilton 1998, p.68 note 34; see also under the Liber washed etching for Basle (Tate D08110; Turner Bequest CXVI I).
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.304 no.518, pl.520 (colour).
Technical notes:
The sheet is not watermarked, but its batch has been identified as ‘1794 | J Whatman’;1 it has discoloured owing to light exposure, making the ink appear very brown. Its overall tonality is more akin to the delicate appearance of aquatint prints than to the usual, higher-contrast Liber mezzotints. Faint, quite freely drawn pencil lines define the architecture, with greyish wash composed of fine black particles neatly filling in the forms; wash is applied more rapidly and freely over the trees and foreground foliage. The warmer brown wash, with coarse brown pigment, was worked with the fingers. The brown wash used for the goats in the foreground has hard edges, showing that it was used very wet.2 The overall colour is a warm brown, composed of umber pigment, possibly with sienna in the lighter wash.3 There is some spattering in the sky at the top left, and a deposit of wash or dirt in a crease above the trees. The wash across the sky is rather streaky. The techniques and materials are similar to those used for two other early Liber drawings – The Castle above the Meadows (Tate D08112; Turner Bequest CXVI K) and The Junction of the Severn and the Wye (Tate D08132; Turner Bequest CXVII E).4
Forrester 1996, p.104 (analysis by Peter Bower, acknowledged p.8).
Townsend 1996, I, p.378.
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files, with slide of detail.
Ibid.; Forrester 1996, p.11.
Blank, save for inscriptions.
Inscribed in pencil ‘R’ centre, and ‘D08146’ bottom left
Stamped in black ‘[crown] | N•G | CXVII – R’ bottom left
Thin tape and the residue of former mounting are evident all round the edges of the sheet.

Matthew Imms
August 2008

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Bridge and Goats c.1806 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, August 2008, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-bridge-and-goats-r1131748, accessed 19 June 2024.