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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Figures 1818

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 67 Recto:
Figures 1818
D13579
Turner Bequest CLXVI 67
Pencil on white wove paper, 112 x 90 mm
Inscribed in pencil by Turner ‘LB | R’ top left; ‘B’ centre top; ‘W’ top right.
Stamped in black ‘CLXVI 67’ top right running vertically
 
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The six figures on this page, which has been turned to the left in the portrait format, demonstrate Turner’s interest in recording the costume and activities of local people during his travels. On his 1801 tour of Scotland, Turner had kept a sketchbook of Scotch Figures (Turner Bequest LIX; D03440–D03631), recording the clothes and attitudes of people on the street as a repository of figures that he could draw upon in future. The figures on the present page are a continuation of this practice (as are sketches in the Bass Rock and Edinburgh sketchbook, Tate D13322, D13413 and D13435; Turner Bequest CLXV 1, 51 and 62).
While topographical sketches sometimes include figures that appear very much as part of their surrounding (Bass Rock and Edinburgh sketchbook, Tate D13412; Turner Bequest CLXV 50a; Scotch Antiquities sketchbook, Tate D13653–D13654, D13701 and D13744; Turner Bequest CLXVII 40a, 64a and 86), there is evidence in these figure studies that Turner was looking out for figures that fit certain ‘types’ that could be useful for future works. There are, for example, numerous sketches of people wearing tartan and plaid in the Scotch Figures sketchbook (Tate D03442 and D03446; Turner Bequest LIX 3 and 6).
In the present drawing there is just one example of tartan with the shawl of the lower right figure. Other features of Scottish dress are the striped ‘trews’ (a traditional form of trousers in Scotland) and bonnet of the figure on the top row. The two figures to the right are evidently soldiers by their diagonally-worn belts over their ‘B[lue]’ jackets and ‘W[hite]’ Tam o’Shanter bonnets. In contrast to the two labouring figures at the bottom of the page who pull a cart and carry a basket, the woman at the top right appears to wear fitted rather than loose garments including a short ‘L[ight] B[lue]’ jacket with a lace collar and a ‘R[ed] skirt, and she wears her hair in a chignon instead of covered with a hood or bonnet. Her relaxed, upright stance also contrasts with the stooping figures below, and her bags suggest that she is shopping rather than working. There is another sketch of figures with a handcart below this one on the opposite page (folio 66 verso; D13578). There is also a single figure carrying a sack on folio 67 verso (D13580) which belongs to this set.

Thomas Ardill
January 2008

How to cite

Thomas Ardill, ‘Figures 1818 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, January 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-figures-r1132124, accessed 20 September 2021.