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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner ?Dartmoor c.1814-16

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
?Dartmoor c.1814–16
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 327
Watercolour on white wove paper, 170 x 240 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCLXIII – 327’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This atmospheric but relatively featureless twilight study resists precise connection to a particular site; nevertheless, Gerald Wilkinson declared that despite ‘the rather dreary foreground, the picture stands as a fine and complete statement’.1 There is some delicate hatching suggesting heathland vegetation. Eric Shanes has noted its similarity in terms of style,2 similar subject,3 and paper4 to a view he identified of Brent Tor and the Lydford Valley in Devon (Tate D25436; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 313), although he has also suggested views across Wharfedale near his patron Walter Fawkes’s Yorkshire home as potentially linked5 (see the ‘Farnley Hall and Yorkshire c.1808–24’ section of the present catalogue).
D25436 is based on a faint line drawing in the Devon Rivers, No.1 sketchbook (Tate D09506; Turner Bequest CXXXII 24), now dated to 1814. It is possible that the present work was developed from one of the slight views of successive hills and valleys on or around Dartmoor on adjacent pages, such as Tate D09491, D09497, D09503, D09505 or D09507 (Turner Bequest CXXXII 10, 15, 21, 23, 25). The last of these is a variant prospect of Brent Tor, while D09505 is identified by Turner’s inscription as showing the remote Cranmere Pool, at the head of the West Okement River in the middle of the northern half of the moor; the sources of the Taw, Tavy and East Dart rivers are nearby. As it seems reasonable to relate them, Shanes’s ‘?1813–16’ for the Brent Tor watercolour, revised to c.1814–16 in the present catalogue owing to the redating of its source drawing, has also used for the present work.
Although Shanes does not link the two sheets to any particular project,6 there could be a connection with the Rivers of Devon scheme of that period, as discussed in the Introduction to this section. Compare the bleak setting of the watercolour of a north-west Devon moorland scene (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven),7 engraved at about that time but not published until 1850 as Source of the Tamer [sic] & Torridge (Tate impression: T07093).
Wilkinson 1975, p.152.
See Shanes 1997, p.38.
Ibid., p.58.
Ibid., p.103.
Ibid., p.94.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.350 no.443, reproduced.
Technical notes:
In 1909 Finberg laconically noted: ‘Yellow faded’.1 This followed prolonged exposure in one of the touring Loan Collections.2 Gerald Wilkinson has observed that the ‘true brilliance of the colours can be seen at the unfaded edges – including a surprising green’3 where the blue horizon merges with the yellow sky. The centre is muted, with a rather bleary appearance where the tones of the faded colours and yellowed paper have converged.
Finberg 1909, II, p.839.
See Warrell 1991, p.43.
Wilkinson 1975, p.152.
Blank; laid down.

Matthew Imms
July 2016

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘?Dartmoor c.1814–16 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, July 2016, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, February 2017, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-dartmoor-r1184415, accessed 20 May 2024.