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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Plompton Rocks 1797

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Plompton Rocks 1797
Turner Bequest LI Y
Pencil on white wove paper, 259 x 423 mm
Inscribed in red ink ‘Y’ bottom left
Stamped in black ‘LI – Y’ bottom right
Turner’s visit to Harewood House, seat of the Lascelles family (see the Introduction to the present subsection) formed a climax to his North of England tour, in so far as it involved a substantial commission for several views of the house and grounds, and for two oil paintings of Plompton Rocks (private collection)1 which may, as Butlin and Joll speculate,2 have been the first he executed in that medium on commission; see also D17202 (Turner Bequest CXCVII L). They were intended to fill decorative panels (formerly doorways) in the wall of the Saloon, with landscapes by Nicholas Thomas Dall (working 1748–died 1776) above. Plompton Rocks were celebrated as a natural attraction on property belonging to the family, just south of Knaresborough and about six miles north of Harewood. The gritstone outcrops had been enhanced by the construction of a lake in the 1760s, to create a Picturesque pleasure ground which looks natural but is at the same time an artificial reordering of nature. The subject was evidently chosen as being of Picturesque as much as of topographical and family interest.
This pencil study, made on a sheet of stout cartridge paper similar to that which he used for some of his drawings in the park (for example Tate D02389; Turner Bequest LI V), gives a general view of the Rocks, but does not correspond to the composition of either of the two paintings, whereas the other surviving drawing relates closely to one of them.3
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.22 nos.26–27, pls.24, 25 (colour).
See ibid., p.22.
A pencil drawing by Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) of Plompton Rocks, enhanced with watercolour (now very faded) and dating from about this time, possibly a year or two later, was sold at Bonhams, London, 6 June 2006 (33, reproduced).
Technical notes:
The sheet is stained and fly-blown, and somewhat irregular, narrowing noticeably towards the bottom.
Blank; stamped in brown ink with Turner Bequest monogram.

Andrew Wilton
January 2013

How to cite

Andrew Wilton, ‘Plompton Rocks 1797 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, January 2013, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, November 2014, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-plompton-rocks-r1150312, accessed 29 February 2020.