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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Grounds of Trinity College, Oxford c.1837-9

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
The Grounds of Trinity College, Oxford c.1837–9
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 95
Pencil and watercolour on white wove paper, 344 x 505 mm
Inscribed in red ink ‘95’ bottom right
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCLXIII – 95’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Eric Shanes has identified this loose colour study as showing Trinity College, Oxford, based on a pencil drawing in the Oxford sketchbook, in use between about 1834 and 18381 (Tate D27935, D27936; Turner Bequest CCLXXXV 26a–27),2 possibly as an undeveloped design for Turner’s Picturesque Views in England and Wales,3 the last engravings of which were published in 1838.
The view is to the west from the Parks Road entrance to the grounds, along the receding path leading to the Garden Quadrangle, with the college itself, ranged along the skyline in the detailed sketch, barely indicated here by a succession of palely washed masses against white clouds towards the left or reserved areas left white against the blue sky towards the right. Turner has introduced gardening equipment in the foreground, and the lightly indicated figures midway down the path may be ‘gowned academics’ suggested by tiny figures in the distance of the original sketch.4
Colin Harrison has also dated this, along with other Oxford colour studies, to the late 1830s,5 hence the dating here. Tate D25218 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 96) shows Trinity in the distance from the grounds of St John’s College, while Tate D36314 (Turner Bequest CCCLXV 24) shows New College from its grounds. See also the introductions to the present subsection of identified but unrealised Oxford subjects and the overall England and Wales ‘colour beginnings’ grouping to which this work has been assigned.
Quoting Finberg’s tentative title, Gerald Wilkinson decided the ‘“cathedral” is so near invisible it can be discounted. An empty, yet strangely interesting “beginning”.’6
See Harrison 2000, p.88.
Shanes 1997, p.89.
See ibid., pp.12, 13, 26, 86, 89, 96, 100, 105.
See ibid.
Harrison 2000, p.91.
Wilkinson 1975, p.117.
Technical notes:
As Eric Shanes notes,1 this is one of four Oxford colour studies which are closely related physically. Tate D36314 (Turner Bequest CCCLXV 24, watermarked 1837) and Tate D25218 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 96) have matching serrations at the bottom of their respective compositions where the original super royal-format sheet was torn in half. The two were worked up on opposite faces of the overall sheet, presumably after it was halved, as there is no overlap of watercolour wash from the front of one to the back of the other. All of the above applies to Tate D25220 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 98) and the present work, also originally a single sheet. Shanes observes that ‘all four drawings manifest extremely similar serrations that resulted from the two super royal sheets being torn in half simultaneously’.2 He also suggests that their ‘distinctive, shared characteristics’, along with those of a fifth Oxford study, Tate D36316 (Turner Bequest CCCLXV 26, watermarked 1837), indicate that they ‘may have been made during the same work session’.3
Shanes 1997, p.86.
Blank, save for inscriptions: stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram above ‘CCLXIII – 95’ bottom left; and in pencil ‘AB 93 P’ and ‘CCLXIII 95’ bottom right. The left-hand two fifths of the verso appear noticeably darkened, probably through exposure, although this does not affect the recto.

Matthew Imms
March 2013

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘The Grounds of Trinity College, Oxford c.1837–9 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, March 2013, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2013, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-the-grounds-of-trinity-college-oxford-r1144338, accessed 24 May 2024.