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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Summer-house and Garden at 'The Limes', Mortlake, Looking West up the River Thames 1825

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 15 Verso:
The Summer-house and Garden at ‘The Limes’, Mortlake, Looking West up the River Thames 1825
Turner Bequest CCXIII 15a
Pencil on white wove paper, 113 x 187 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
As has long been recognised,1 this drawing is the most direct source for the painting Mortlake Terrace, the Seat of William Moffatt, Esq. Summer’s Evening, shown at the Royal Academy in 1827 (National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC);2 a companion piece, The Seat of William Moffatt Esq., at Mortlake. Early (Summer’s) Morning, had been exhibited there the previous year (Frick Collection, New York).3 The view is west up the River Thames in the direction of Kew, from a viewpoint notionally inside or immediately beside the west front of Moffatt’s house, ‘The Limes’. The low wall or parapet in the foreground here also appears in the painting, contributing to the effect of steep perspectival recession. Proportionately, the painting was extended upwards to allow the full canopies of the trees to be depicted. There is a detailed study of the summer-house at the end of the garden on folio 13 recto (D18728). As a counterpoint to the morning view, Ian Warrell has observed that the composition here is ‘a reversal of the traditional topographical house portrait so that the house itself is not seen’,4 comparing subsequent paintings of the estate at Petworth; see for example Petworth Park; Tillington Church in the Distance of about 1828 (Tate N00559).5
In the Mortlake evening painting, the view along the bank beyond the trees is informed by the more detailed study on folio 14 verso (D18731). The trunk of the tree on the right is shown semi-transparently to enable Turner to record the full width of the tree-lined horizon; the present view continues halfway across folio 16 recto opposite (D18734), with another tree shown in a similar way. This playing with form was developed in a different way in the painting, where the upper edge of the shadowy wall between the two trees above the parapet is dissolved by the fierce light of the setting sun reflected in the river, the effect being emphasised by the silhouetted form of a dog shown standing on the wall. Turner also introduced an elaborate City or livery company barge passing behind the equivalent of the right-hand tree in the present sketch, accompanied by long rowing boats full of passengers, perhaps inspired by the craft he had recorded near London Bridge on earlier pages (see the sketchbook’s Introduction, where there is also further discussion of the house, the paintings and related studies).
See Finberg 1909, II, p.648, Butlin, Wilton and Gage 1974, pp.102, 103, Herrmann 1975, p.232, Wilkinson 1975, p.31, Joll 1983, p.101, Butlin and Joll 1984, p.145, Warrell 1991, p.48, Hayes 1992, pp.270, 272 note 7, and Galassi 1996, p.[9].
Ibid., pp.147–8 no.239, pl.237 (colour).
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.144–5 no.235, pl.236 (colour).
Warrell 1991, p.48.
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.165–6 no.283, pl.285 (colour).
Technical notes:
There are smudges of dark brown pigment on the left, probably connected with work on the related oil painting described above.
The leaf has been removed from the sketchbook and reattached. The loose pencil marks towards the top and bottom of the gutter on the blank recto (D18732) relate to this process; such marks often occur on the backs of double-page spreads extracted for display in the nineteenth century, but there appears to be no record of such an event in this case, which would have involved the present page and D18734 opposite. The recto of the present leaf and the verso of D18734 are inscribed with ink numbers of the type also usually indicating early display.

Matthew Imms
December 2014

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘The Summer-house and Garden at ‘The Limes’, Mortlake, Looking West up the River Thames 1825 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, December 2014, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, April 2015, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-the-summer-house-and-garden-at-the-limes-mortlake-looking-r1172855, accessed 22 May 2024.