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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner ?Study for 'England: Richmond Hill, on the Prince Regent's Birthday' c.1819

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
?Study for ‘England: Richmond Hill, on the Prince Regent's Birthday’ c.1819
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 386
Watercolour on white wove paper, 187 x 274 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCLXIII – 386’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
With a little pencil work around the walls at right, and only a few other slight strokes, this study of the famous view west up the Thames from Richmond Hill appears, as Lindsay Stainton has put it, a ‘direct, naturalistic rendering of the view, perhaps made for its own sake’.1 The contre-jour effect of strong afternoon light, radiating shadows in the foreground and tiny passing figures give an air of immediacy, suggesting a relatively rare instance of Turner painting as opposed to drawing in the open air.
Turner had a long association with the Richmond upon Thames area,2 and built a house for himself at Twickenham, below the hill on the opposite bank (see the ‘Sandycombe Lodge c.1808–12’ section of the present catalogue). He had first made a watercolour of the view in the mid 1790s (Tate D00672; Turner Bequest CCVII K), and another dates from perhaps twenty years later (Tate D17192; Turner Bequest CXCVII B); there are also sporadic pencil sketches. His most ambitious treatment was the large painting England: Richmond Hill, on the Prince Regent’s Birthday, exhibited in 1819 (Tate N00502),3 and Eric Shanes has specifically related the present study to it.4
The artist later produced two watercolours of this habitual view: the early 1820s Richmond Hill (Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight),5 engraved in 1826 for the Literary Souvenir (Tate impression: T06132); and Richmond Terrace, Surrey (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool),6 engraved in 1838 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impressions: T04611, T06128). See also the loose ‘colour beginnings’ Tate D25471 and D25509 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 348, 385). While the Walker Art Gallery work is a variation on the 1819 painting, with shady trees in the right foreground and a softly lit party of elegant figures, the Literary Souvenir view is illuminated by a strong central sun, and shows more casual figures with parasols in the open foreground, where an artist’s equipment lies. It is possible that the present sheet most directly informed that version, which hints at Turner working on the spot.
Stainton 1982, p.30.
See David Hill, Turner on the Thames: River Journeys in the Year 1805, New Haven and London 1993, pp.53–62 and in general.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.106–7 no.140, pl.145 (colour).
See Shanes 1997, p.100.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.359 no.518, pl.135.
Ibid., p.403 no.879, reproduced.
Technical notes:
The paper is rather yellowed from prolonged early display, apart from a paler strip at the right, formerly protected by a mount. The sheet appears to have been folded in half at some stage, with rubbing down the centre line.
Blank; laid down.

Matthew Imms
August 2016

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘?Study for ‘England: Richmond Hill, on the Prince Regent's Birthday’ c.1819 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, August 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-study-for-england-richmond-hill-on-the-prince-regents-r1184438, accessed 25 June 2024.