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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Isleworth c.1810-15

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Isleworth circa 1810–15
Vaughan Bequest CXVIII I
Watercolour on off-white wove writing paper, 212 x 290 mm
Bequeathed by Henry Vaughan 1900
Purchased from Henry Dawe by Charles Stokes by 1848, 15 guineas
Bequeathed by Stokes to Hannah Cooper, 1853
Henry Vaughan by 1878
Etching and mezzotint by Turner and Henry Dawe, untitled, published Turner, 1 January 1819
The topographical source of Turner’s classicised Liber Studiorum design was recognised by Rawlinson in the second edition of his Liber catalogue;1 his visual identification has subsequently been confirmed by the examination of Turner’s own Liber lists (see below). The composition had previously been speculatively linked to two riverside sites a few miles further up the Thames – Pope’s Villa at Twickenham, the 1807 demolition of which had been painted by Turner,2 and David Garrick’s octagonal Ionic ‘temple’ in honour of Shakespeare, at Hampton, which still stands.3 Stopford Brooke noted: ‘Part of the sentiment of the plate is that which has collected for many generations round the Thames near London – the sentiment, if we may call it so, of contented opulence, of settled life, of unravished quiet. ... Wealth speaks from every part of the landscape.’4
The composition had a particular, albeit unpublicised, significance for the artist. It shows the domed, Ionic boathouse-pavilion by Robert Mylne, built or completed in 18035 at the corner of the Duke of Northumberland’s Syon Park estate to the west of London, looking up the Thames to the riverfront at Isleworth; Turner moved here temporarily two years later, renting Syon Ferry House (later demolished) between the boathouse, sometimes called the Alcove, and the church.6 The tree and low walls to the left of the pavilion appear to be those depicted in Turner’s sketches of the slipway in front of Ferry House, the corner of which may itself also be represented,7 and building beyond has been identified as the ‘London Apprentice’ public house.8
As Edward Croft-Murray has noted, Turner may have deliberately adapted the appearance of the rotunda to evoke the famous circular Temple of the Sibyl (or Vesta) at Tivoli,9 silently omitting the flanking wings of the Isleworth building, which he had recorded in two of a series of semi-idealised studies in the 1805 Wey, Guildford sketchbook (Tate D06195–D06198; Turner Bequest XCVIII 11–14), and in a watercolour study in the Hesperides (1) sketchbook (Tate D05784; Turner Bequest XCIII 11). Similar riverside rotundas appear in slight drawings in the Thames, from Reading to Walton sketchbook (Tate D05915; Turner Bequest XCV 11) and the Studies for Pictures, Isleworth sketchbook (Tate D05494; Turner Bequest XC 3, ff.), where there are also views of Ferry House and the pavilion from the opposite bank (D05528, D05602; XC 27, 72a), and an apparent variation on the pavilion (D05574; XC 53).
Some of these studies appear to have informed the Liber design Isis (for drawing see Tate D08168; Vaughan Bequest CXVIII N), perhaps considered by Turner as a pair with the present design (and similar in materials and technique – see below).10 While Isis was based on an existing painting, Isleworth does not follow any of the known sketchbook studies closely, and may have been a late return to the synthesis of ‘the two extremes of art and nature, artifice and naturalism’11 which characterised much of his 1805 work in the area and is also evident in other Liber subjects designated ‘EP’ (likely to indicate ‘Elevated Pastoral’ and largely inspired by Claude Lorrain – see general Liber introduction). Gillian Forrester has suggested that the white sail on the left, and its long reflection, may have been an echo of the central element of Thomas Girtin’s 1800 watercolour The White House at Chelsea (Tate N04728), much admired by Turner.12
The published plate was untitled; the composition is recorded, as ‘Isleworth’, in a list of published and unpublished ‘EP’ subjects in the Liber Notes (2) sketchbook (Tate D12162; Turner Bequest CLIV (a) 26a); these notes (Tate D12160–D12171; Turner Bequest CLIV (a) 25a–31) were apparently made between 1808 and as late as 1818.13 It is also noted, as ‘Isleworth ... 13’, 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).14
The Liber Studiorum etching and mezzotint engraving, etched by Turner and engraved by Henry Dawe, bears the publication date 1 January 1819 and was issued to subscribers in part 13 (Rawlinson/Finberg nos.62–66;15 see also Tate D08164–D08166; Turner Bequest CXVIII J, K, L). Tate holds impressions of the preliminary outline etching (Tate A01131) and the published engraving (A01132 and A01133). It is one of eleven published Liber Studiorum subjects in Turner’s ‘EP’ category (see drawings Tate D08103, D08112, D08117, D08122, D08128, D08132, D08137, D08141, D08146, D08147, D08152, D08155, D08159, D08168; Turner Bequest CXVI B, K, P, CXVII A, E, J, N, R, S, X, CXVIII A, Vaughan Bequest CXVI U, CXVIII E, N).
By 1848 the present work had been purchased from its engraver for 15 guineas by Turner’s friend Charles Stokes, who bequeathed to his niece Hannah Cooper in 1853.16 It was in Henry Vaughan’s collection by 1878.17
Rawlinson 1906, pp.149–50.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.55–6 no.72, pl.82 (colour).
Garrick’s Temple to Shakespeare, accessed 17 May 2006, http://www.garrickstemple.org.uk.
Brooke 1885, pp.214–15.
Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, London 3: North West, The Buildings of England, London 1991, p.445, as 1803; David Hill, Turner on the Thames: River Journeys in the Year 1805, New Haven and London 1993, p.173 note 8, as 1780s; see also pp.26, 122, 124.
For this period in general, see Hill 1993.
Ibid., p.124.
Wilton 1987, p.76; see also Wilton and Turner 1990, p.139.
Edward Croft-Murray, Turner Watercolors from The British Museum: A Loan Exhibition Circulated by the Smithsonian Institution, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC 1963, p.16.
Forrester 1996, p.125 and note 4.
Hill 1993, p.124.
Forrester 1996, p.125.
Ibid., pp.161–3 (transcribed).
Ibid., p.163 (transcribed).
Rawlinson 1878, pp.126–34; Rawlinson 1906, pp.148–58; Finberg 1924, pp.245–64.
Forrester 1996, p.125; ‘Cooper Notebooks’, circa 1853–8, vol.II, p.6 no.1 in Krause 1997, p.267.
Rawlinson 1878, p.128.
Technical notes:
The sheet is not watermarked, but its batch has been identified as ‘J Whatman | 1801’, by William Balston and the Hollingworth brothers at Turkey Mill, Maidstone.1 The paper is similar to that used for the Liber drawing Isis, noted above. There is no pencil work, and the paper was not washed initially. Washes were applied with the paper wetted, with further washes for details once the sheet was dry. The lights were reserved, and augmented with washing-out as necessary; washing-out is evident in the right foreground, and at the left; there is no scratching-out. The watercolour was also worked with the fingers, a few light prints being evident in the right foreground. The overall very warm brown colour results from the use of an Indian red pigment.2 There is an adventitious spot of Mars red at the lower right. Finberg considered that ‘the drawing is much finer than the plate, although Turner etched the subject himself. But somehow the spacing of the whole is much less felicitous in the engraving than in the drawing.’3
Forrester 1996, p.125 and note 4 (analysis by Peter Bower, acknowledged p.8).
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files.
Finberg 1910, p.81.
Blank, save for inscriptions.
Inscribed in pencil upside down ‘2’, centre, ‘4 | 62’, top right, and ‘I | 63’ centre right
Stamped with Charles Stokes’s collector’s mark in black [?chess piece or crowned helmet within vertical oval]1 bottom left
Stamped in black ‘[crown] | N•G’ bottom centre

Matthew Imms
August 2008

Frits Lugt, Les Marques de collections de dessins & d’estampes ..., Amsterdam 1921, p.515 no.2758, reproduced.

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Isleworth c.1810–15 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, August 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-isleworth-r1131766, accessed 20 June 2024.