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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Crowhurst c.1816

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Crowhurst circa 1816
Vaughan Bequest CXVIII R
Pen and ink, pencil and watercolour on white wove lightweight writing paper, 200 x 277 mm
Bequeathed by Henry Vaughan 1900
Bought from Henry Dawe by Charles Stokes by 1848, 15 guineas
Bequeathed by Stokes to Hannah Cooper, 1853
Exchanged 6 October 1854 together with Kingston Bank (Tate D08177; Vaughan Bequest CXVIII W) via Thomas Griffith
Henry Vaughan by 1878
(see main catalogue entry)
Turner’s design, engraved for the Liber Studiorum but not published, shows Crowhust Park, East Sussex, about three miles from the Channel coast between Hastings and Battle. He had made drawings of the house and estate, and the landscape southwards to the coast beyond at Bexhill in the Views of Sussex sketchbook (Tate D10327, continued on D10328; Turner Bequest CXXXVIII 8, 9) in preparation for a summery, sunlit watercolour with sheep basking in the foreground near a temporarily-abandoned wheelbarrow and spades, Pevensey Bay, from Crowhurst Park (private collection)1 engraved in 1816 for a short series of Views in Sussex; Crowhurst was the residence of Henry Pelham, Crown Commissioner of Customs, but Turner’s Sussex patron Jack Fuller, who commissioned the watercolours for the series, ‘owned considerable property in the vicinity’.2
For the Liber design, Turner focused in on the central group of trees, cutting out two thirds of the composition both horizontally and vertically, changed the season to deep winter and populated the scene with figures hard at work cutting and gathering wood; he also added more prominent trees and village buildings to the landscape beyond, telescoping the low-lying, flooded countryside so that the once-distant hills terminating in Beachy Head appear much closer and almost mountainous, and the sea much less prominent, its flat horizon indicated by a gleam of light to the left. The Martello towers (represented elsewhere in the Liber – see Tate D08138; Turner Bequest CXVII K) in the Views in Sussex watercolour – and in other watercolours by Turner3 – are omitted, perhaps intentionally since the Napoleonic Wars (which had begun well before Turner’s Liber) had ended in 1815, and with them the topicality of Britain’s southern coastline as the front line of Britain’s defences.
Turner may have intended the design as a contrast to the calm summer rest of the earlier watercolour, and as representing another aspect of the rural labour depicted in published Liber designs including The Straw Yard and Hedging and Ditching (for drawings see Tate D08111, D08151; Turner Bequest CXVI J, CXVII W). The general significance of forestry in relation to the very survival of the nation during the recent wars may be implicit;4 there may also be a more specific element of commentary, as in other Sussex watercolours, on the decline of the local iron industry – reliant on the efficient management of woodland, which had not been successfully implemented locally;5 the trees appear straggling and depleted, and Turner’s figures have an unorganised, archaic quality to them. It has yet to be established whether he had access to reproductions of the two great 1565 winter paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (circa 1525/30–1569), Hunters in the Snow and The Gloomy Day (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, nos.1838 and 1837 respectively), with their valleys with hills and coasts beyond seen through trees from high foregrounds; Crowhurst seems to refer to the Northern European tradition rather than to the Liber’s more usual Italianate models.
For once, Ruskin criticised the design in terms of the limitations of the generic brown ink used for the corresponding Liber print: ‘He seems to have meant to make it extremely beautiful, and the record of a most solemn impression on his own mind from the Downs of Sussex, under light-falling snow, with heavier storm coming on in twilight. The brown colour, however, of the engraving defeats his purpose’.6
The composition is recorded, as ‘17 Snow +’, in a list of published and unpublished ‘Pastoral’ subjects in the Liber Notes (2) sketchbook (Tate D12160; Turner Bequest CLIV (a) 25a). The ‘+’ probably indicates that the work had yet to be engraved; these notes (D12160–D12171; CLIV (a) 25a–31) were apparently made between 1808 and as late as 1818.7 It is noted again, as ‘Snow ... Daw’, in a list (now rubbed and difficult to decipher) of Liber works in progress around 1817–18 inside the back cover of the Aesacus and Hesperie sketchbook (Tate D40933; Turner Bequest CLXIX).8
The etching and mezzotint engraving, etched by Turner and engraved by Henry Dawe, was among the unpublished Liber Studiorum prints (Rawlinson/Finberg nos.72–91;9 see also Tate D08170, D08171, D08174–D08178, D25451; Turner Bequest CXVIII U, CCLXIII 328, Vaughan Bequest CXVIII P, Q, S, T, V, W, X; and Tate N02782, N03631). Tate does not hold any impressions.
Between 1902 and 1904, Frank Short etched and mezzotinted this composition,10 as one of his interpretations of the unpublished Liber plates (Tate does not hold an impression; see general Liber introduction).
By 1848 the present work had been bought from Henry Dawe by Turner’s friend Charles Stokes, for 15 guineas, and he bequeathed it to his niece Hannah Cooper in 1853.11 It was exchanged the following year together with the Liber design Kingston Bank (Tate D08177; Vaughan Bequest CXVIII W) through Turner’s dealer Thomas Griffith.12 Henry Vaughan owned it by 187813
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.348 no.426, reproduced;
Eric Shanes, Turner’s Rivers, Harbours and Coasts, London 1981, p.19; see also the same author’s ‘Sussex, Views in’ in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Herrmann eds., The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, pp.322–3.
See Joyce H. Townsend and Ian Warrell, ‘Picture Note 2’, Turner Studies, vol.11, no.1, Summer 1991, pp.56–7 and note 21.
Forrester 1996, p.140.
Hamilton 1998, pp.53–4.
‘Catalogue of the Rudimentary Series’ in Instructions in Practice of Elementary Drawing..., in Cook and Wedderburn XXI 1906, pp.218–19.
Forrester 1996, pp.161–3 (transcribed).
Ibid., p.163 (transcribed).
Rawlinson 1878, pp.144–69; 1906, pp.169–96; Finberg 1924, pp.287–365.
Hardie 1938, p.57 no.21, reproduced p.[91] pl.VI.
Forrester 1996, p.139; ‘Cooper Notebooks’, circa 1853–8, vol.II, p.6 no.4 in Krause 1997, p.267.
Forrester 1996, p.139; see also Ian Warrell, Turner on the Loire, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1997, p.225, but with the other drawing listed as the unengraved Liber design Sion House, Isleworth (British Museum, London: see Rawlinson 1878, p.173 no.95).
Rawlinson 1878, p.151.
Technical notes:
The sheet is not watermarked, but has been identified as once being part of the Studies for Liber sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest CXV),1 made up of ‘J Whatman | 1807’ paper;2 as it has been trimmed to the image as engraved (intact pages in the sketchbook being 230 x 381 mm), it is not possible to establish its original location in the book by matching it to the stubs that remain there. A uniform, overall wash in watercolour was applied, with initial pencil sketching for the figures. Heavy brown ink,3 like printers’ ink, was used for the trees, and some strokes have a ‘spluttered’ outline because they were applied with a pen; this work alternated with brushstrokes of watercolour. There is much scratching-out, notably to indicate snow on the branches of the central trees, and some lights reserved in the sky, giving a high contrast with the dark, inked areas. The overall colour is a mid-brown, due to the use of a burnt sienna pigment and possibly sepia to the lower right.4 A fingerprint is visible on the dark, turreted building in the distance. Ruled pencil lines are evident in the sky a few millimetres from the left- and right-hand edges, corresponding with the limits of the image as engraved.
Forrester 1996, pp.15, 24 note 82 (analysis by Peter Bower, acknowledged p.8); see also Bower, Tate conservation files.
Ibid., p.139; see also Bower, Tate conservation files.
Townsend 1996, I, p.378.
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files, with slides of details.
Blank, save for inscriptions.
Inscribed in pencil ‘CXVIII R | Pl 76’ top left, ‘1’ [circled] centre, and ‘D08172’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘[crown] | N•G | CXVIII – R’ bottom left
There is some staining at the top left and the bottom edge, and a few apparently random dark lines on the right.

Matthew Imms
May 2006

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Crowhurst c.1816 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, May 2006, 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-crowhurst-r1131777, accessed 23 June 2024.