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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Lecture Diagram 17: Principles of Rectilinear Perspective (after Thomas Malton Senior) c.1810

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Lecture Diagram 17: Principles of Rectilinear Perspective (after Thomas Malton Senior) circa 1810
Turner Bequest CXCV 60
Pen and ink and watercolour on white wove paper, 484 x 600 mm
Watermarked ‘1794 | J WHATMAN’
Inscribed by Turner in red watercolour ‘17’ top left
Inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘60’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
As Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy, Turner spent a considerable portion of Lecture 2 defining terminology, and then moved on to the theory of rectilinear perspective as discussed by the elder Thomas Malton (1726–1801) in Book II of A Compleat Treatise on Perspective in Theory and Practice on the True Principles of Dr Brook Taylor 1775). Diagram 17 is based on an illustration from Malton’s treatise (pl.VI, fig.23) and paraphrases the author when Turner explains that the drawing is ‘intended to divest the partiality practitioners entertain for the horizontal line’.1 Turner adds that while the diagram ‘may appear rather intricate’ it is in reality ‘analyzable’. He uses it, along with Diagram 18 (Tate D17031; Turner Bequest CXCV 61), to emphasise that while perspective may appear complex and difficult, ‘the shortest way to perspective is through theory to practice, the loss of time (if any) will never be regretted’. Maurice Davies writes that the diagram ‘shows the importance of a general perspective theory applicable for all vanishing lines, not just the horizon’.
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 L folio 6 verso. For earlier versions of related lecture material, see D folio 4 and E folio 8 verso.
Technical notes:
Peter Bower states that the sheet is Royal size Whatman paper made by William Balston and Finch and Thomas Robert Hollingworth, at Turkey Mill, Maidstone, Kent. He writes that ‘all the group of papers with 1794 dates in the watermark show considerable process dirt and poor formation’. He attributes the lack of quality control to James Whatman’s stroke and the change of ownership at the mill.1
Notes in tate catalogue files.
Blank, save for an inscription by an unknown hand in pencil ‘T.L. 441’ top left and ‘62’ bottom left.

Andrea Fredericksen
June 2004

Supported by The Samuel H. Kress Foundation

Revised by David Blayney Brown
January 2012

How to cite

Andrea Fredericksen, ‘Lecture Diagram 17: Principles of Rectilinear Perspective (after Thomas Malton Senior) c.1810 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, June 2004, revised by David Blayney Brown, January 2012, 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-lecture-diagram-17-principles-of-rectilinear-perspective-r1136481, accessed 19 May 2022.