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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Brimham Rocks, above Nidderdale c.1816

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 9 Recto:
Brimham Rocks, above Nidderdale c.1816
Turner Bequest CXXVIII 9
Pencil on white wove paper, 285 x 460 mm
Inscribed by ?John Ruskin in red ink ‘9’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CXXVIII 9’ bottom right
Blind-stamped with the Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
C.F. Bell was the first to identify this subject as Brimham Rocks in his annotations to a copy of Finberg’s Inventory, now kept in Tate’s Library.1 Turner records the view south from outside Brimham House, built in 1792 by the estate’s owner Lord Grantley. Brimham Rocks is one of the most extensive areas of curiously eroded gritstone in Britain, and has been a popular resort since perhaps the seventeenth century. It is now in the care of the National Trust. Many of the stone outcrops have been given names. Those to the left in Turner’s sketch are the ‘Druid’s Castle Rocks’ and ‘The Eagle’; ‘The Dog’s Head’ stands obviously to the right and in the middle distance can be seen ‘The Sphinx’. On-site it will be noticed that Turner has adopted a quite synthetic approach to recording the detail before him. He compresses an angle of view of about ninety degrees into the space of his page, and elides certain passages and conflates others to achieve this. Even allowing for some alteration in the forms of the rocks over two hundred years, it is clear, too, that Turner is interested more in characteristic, rather than exactly particular details. Brimham Rocks are about twelve miles north of Farnley Hall, the home of Turner’s Yorkshire patron Walter Fawkes, but perhaps only six from Hall Beck Gill, the locality of previous sketches from this sketchbook (folio 7; D09023), and would have been an easy excursion on horseback. It is perhaps not insignificant that Turner’s view here looks directly towards Farnley.
Bell annotated the copy over many years while the Turner Bequest was at the British Museum, and the volumes were transferred to the Tate Gallery with rest of the Bequest in 1987.
Blank, except for traces of watercolour, probably made when painting a watercolour from folio 10 (D09026).

David Hill
October 2009

How to cite

David Hill, ‘Brimham Rocks, above Nidderdale c.1816 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, October 2009, 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/joseph-mallord-william-turner-brimham-rocks-above-nidderdale-r1146745, accessed 28 May 2020.