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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Inscription by Turner: Draft of a Speech to the Artists' General Benevolent Institution ?1818

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Inscription by Turner: Draft of a Speech to the Artists’ General Benevolent Institution ?1818
Ink on white wove paper, 175 x 109 mm
Part watermark ‘er & Son
Inscribed by Turner in ink with draft of a speech (see main catalogue entry)
Stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CXCV (a) – L’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The whole page is taken up with the ink draft of a speech:
The duty of returning thanks for the honourable | and marked distinction which his Royal – | the Duke of Sussex has been pleased to confer | on the directors of the AGB Institution has | fallen into my inadequate hands, but | actuated by the same feelings of most | profound respect felt most certainly | by every Director, I will beg therefore | in their name leave to offer them [‘their’ inserted above and ‘thanks’ below] | with gratefull respects for the | honor conferred on them and the [?kindness] | of his R Highn presiding this day | and to the company present for their | support [‘... ?appropriate of their endeavours’ inserted above] in drinking His health | and – if I might be alow [sic] to [...] | [...] on your [...] the Directors | in placing their law and [?regulations] before | you <...> hope for the approbation and | support, and the sooner a [?Generous] and | delighted [...] appreciation [‘shall’ inserted above] Enable | the directors to [?know] their value [‘by ...’ inserted above] or | defects, [four words] inserted above] the earlier will be their
The text breaks off at this point, and was presumably continued elsewhere. Finberg gave a partial transcription in his 1909 Inventory without further comment;1 later noting that the occasion was ‘Probably at AGB dinner. May 1818’.2 This appears to be a slip for March, when the ‘fourth annual public dinner’ of the Artists’ General Benevolent Institution was held on the 5th at the Albion Tavern in the City of London, with the Duke of Sussex in the chair and Turner as ‘Chairman and Treasurer’ as notified in the Literary Gazette.3 Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (1773–1843), the sixth son of George III, was a supporter of many radical, humanitarian, artistic and scientific causes; he had been President of the Society of Arts since 1816, and was later President of the Royal Society.4
The ‘tavern’ at 153 Aldersgate was a less homely establishment than the name might suggest, with a four-storey neo-classical façade, and various prominent organisations held dinners there;5 on this occasion, Turner’s Royal Academy colleague Joseph Farington reported: ‘Abt. 160 persons dined; the Duke of Sussex in the Chair. He addressed the Company with good effect’.6 Turner, not known for the suaveness of his public speaking (particularly in his Royal Academy perspective lectures), would have attempted nevertheless to do likewise with the help of these somewhat tortuous notes.
The business appears to have included the society’s ‘law and regulations’; they were presumably approved, as in May 1818 they were published, with the Duke listed as one of the patrons (along with his brother the Duke of Kent) and Turner listed as Chairman.7 Turner was involved in the founding of the Institution, in a cause close to his heart, in 1814,8 and remained Chairman from 18159 until 1829.10 Finberg suggested that Tate D08197 (Turner Bequest CXIX J) depicts ‘A Council Meeting of the Artists’ Benevolent Society’ and that Tate D08198 (Turner Bequest CXIX K) shows ‘a similar meeting’,11 although this is as yet unconfirmed. The Artist’s Benevolent Fund sketchbook, in use in 1817, includes closely written financial notes relating to the Institution (Tate D13180, D13181, D13186; Turner Bequest CLXIII 6a, 7, 11a).
There are figure studies on the recto (Tate D17162; Turner Bequest CXCV a L).

Matthew Imms
September 2016

Finberg 1909, II, p.598.
Undated MS note by Finberg in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, I, opposite p.598.
Literary Gazette, no.58, 28 February 1818, p.144.
See ‘Augustus Frederick, Prince, duke of Sussex (1773–1843)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed 22 September 2016, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/900.
See ‘The Albion Tavern’, The Worshipful Company of Bowyers, accessed 22 September 2016, http://www.bowyers.com/meetingPlaces_albion.php.
Kathryn Cave (ed.), The Diary of Joseph Farington, vol.XV, New Haven and London 1984, p.5170.
An Account of the General Benevolent Institution, for the Relief of Decayed Artists of the United Kingdom, London 1818, p.[5].
See ‘Welcome to the AGBI’, AGBI, accessed 22 September 2016, http://www.agbi.co.uk/.
Accounts include Eric Shanes, Young Mr Turner: The First Forty Years, 1775–1815, New Haven and London 2016, pp.456–7.
See James Hamilton, Turner: A Life, London 1997, p.247.
Finberg 1909, I, p.326.

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Inscription by Turner: Draft of a Speech to the Artists’ General Benevolent Institution ?1818 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, September 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-inscription-by-turner-draft-of-a-speech-to-the-artists-r1184400, accessed 03 December 2021.