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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner St Catherine's Hill near Guildford c.1808

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
St Catherine’s Hill near Guildford circa 1808
Turner Bequest CXVII J
Pencil and watercolour on off-white wove writing paper, 182 x 257 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Etching and mezzotint by Turner and J.C. Easling, ‘St. Catherines Hill near Guildford’, published Turner, [?1] June 1811
St Catherine’s Hill, taking its name from the dedication of the ruined medieval chapel at its summit, stands between the Portsmouth road and the River Wey about a mile south of the centre of Guildford in Surrey. Along with Hind Head Hill, Water Mill and Hedging and Ditching (see Tate D08130, D08140, D08151; Turner Bequest CXVII C, M, W) this Liber Studiorum composition is derived from slight sketches made in the Spithead sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest C), generally thought to have been made on Turner’s round trip from London to Portsmouth to London in October and November 1807.1 In this case the source was a drawing (D06613; C 73a) from a sequence of studies (see also D06611, D06615, D06617; C 72a, 74a, 75a), although Turner had first recorded the chapel in the early 1790s (Tate D00183, D40227; Turner Bequest XVII H and verso) and again in a sequence from various angles in the 1805 Wey, Guildford sketchbook (Tate D06306, D06314, D06316, D06318; Turner Bequest XCVIII 110a, 114a, 115a, 116a). There is also an oil sketch from the latter year (Tate N02676),2 where the chapel is seen from near St Catherine’s Lock to the south, east of the road which appears in the Liber design; the latter may have been partly informed by the central passage of the oil study.
Ruskin favourably compared the ‘fullness and completion’ of the ‘home’ subjects to the Continental in the Liber, contrasting ‘the cattle and road of the St. Catherine’s Hill, with the foreground of the Bonneville’3 (for drawing for the latter, see Tate D08164; Turner Bequest CXVIII J). Stopford Brooke commended the ‘spiritual power’ he detected in the chapel’s presence:
It stands broken and sorrowful, the witness of a bygone faith, roofless, windowless, but at peace; ... It has done its work for man and God, and Turner paints it in its ruined rest. As in the Dunstanborough [see Liber drawing Tate D08118; Turner Bequest CXVI Q], he has here also laid the sheep about the hill to increase the impression of quiet; ... It is no picturesque place. Turner paints English life as it was; and the struggle of the poor is uppermost in his mind in all these rustic subjects. ... He paints them at the hour of rest, and the sense of its consolation broods over this little world.4
Gillian Forrester has noted Turner’s inclusion of the composition in the Liber’s ‘EP’ category, likely to indicate ‘Elevated Pastoral’ (see general Liber introduction), and his consequent alteration of the late autumn scene he observed into ‘an idyllic summer pastoral.’5
The composition is recorded, as ‘8[:] 2 St Catherines Hill’, in the Liber Notes (2) sketchbook (Tate D12157; Turner Bequest CLIV (a) 24), in a draft schedule of the first ten parts of the Liber (D12156–D12158; CLIV (a) 23a–24a)6 dated by Finberg and Gillian Forrester to before the middle of 1808.7 It also appears later in the sketchbook, as ‘1 St Catharine Hill’, in a list of published and unpublished ‘EP’ subjects (Tate D12162; Turner Bequest CLIV (a) 26a).8
The Liber Studiorum etching and mezzotint engraving, etched by Turner and engraved by J.C. Easling, bears the publication date June 1811 and was issued to subscribers as ‘St. Catherines Hill near Guildford’ in part 7 (Rawlinson/Finberg nos.32–36;9 see also Tate D08136, D08138, D08139; Turner Bequest CXVII I, K, Vaughan Bequest CXVII L). Tate holds impressions of the preliminary outline etching (Tate A00976) and the published engraving (A00977). It is one of eleven published Liber Studiorum subjects in Turner’s ‘EP’ category (see also drawings Tate D08103, D08112, D08117, D08122, D08128, D08132, D08141, D08146, D08147, D08152, D08155, D08159, D08163, D08168; CXVI B, K, P, U, CXVII A, E, N, R, S, X, CXVIII A, Vaughan Bequest CXVIII E, I, N). In 1890, the print was reproduced as a facsimile photogravure in the South Kensington Drawing-Book, with additional hand-engraving by Frank Short.10
Turner depicted the chapel again, in dramatic weather and with a bustling fair in the foreground, in a watercolour of about 1830 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, B1975.4.1859).11
See Alexander J. Finberg, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A. Second Edition, Revised, with a Supplement, by Hilda F. Finberg, revised ed., Oxford 1961, p.138.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.122 no.187, pl.187 (colour); see also David Hill, Turner on the Thames: River Journeys in the Year 1805, New Haven and London 1993, pp.78–80.
Cook and Wedderburn III 1903, p.236.
Brooke 1885, p.107.
Forrester 1996, p.92.
Ibid., pp.160–1 (transcribed).
Finberg 1924, p.xliii; Forrester 1996, pp.13–14.
Forrester 1996, p.161 (transcribed).
Rawlinson 1878, pp.69–76; 1906, pp.80–9; Finberg 1924, pp.125–44.
[John Ward] ed., Frederick Wedmore, Frank Short and others, The South Kensington Drawing-Book. A Selection from the Liber Studiorum of J.M.W. Turner, R.A. for Artists, Art Students, and Amateurs. A Drawing-Book Suggested by the Writings of Mr. Ruskin..., London [1890], opposite p.27.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.398 no.837, reproduced.
Technical notes:
There are small splashes in the pale sky (compare the Liber design for Solitude: Tate D08155; Turner Bequest CXVIII A). The figures and animals were drawn in pencil. Clouds were made by washing out details from an initially uniform wash, and the patches of sunlight on the road were also made in this way. There is little scratching-out except on the tree trunks catching the suns rays on the left. The distant sheep have been made by washing out a patch, then adding a few telling brushstrokes to outline them on the still-wet paper. The darks are medium-rich and are beginning to crack. The overall colour is a very warm brown, due to the use of a single Indian red pigment.1
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files, with slides of details.
Blank, save for inscriptions.
Inscribed in pencil ‘J’, and ‘491 | [?‘1’ or ‘/’] | 43’ centre, and ‘D.08137’ bottom left
Stamped in black ‘[crown] | N•G | CXVII – J’ bottom left

Matthew Imms
August 2008

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘St Catherine’s Hill near Guildford c.1808 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-st-catherines-hill-near-guildford-r1131740, accessed 19 June 2024.