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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner View of a Lake (?Derwentwater) c.1807-19

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
View of a Lake (?Derwentwater) circa 1807–19
Vaughan Bequest CXVIII a
Pencil and watercolour on white wove lightweight writing paper, 215 x 289 mm
Bequeathed by Henry Vaughan 1900
Henry Vaughan by 1878
(see main catalogue entry)
Turner visited Derwentwater, south of Keswick in the Lake District, on his 1797 tour of the north of England. The present drawing has traditionally been categorised as an unengraved design for the Liber Studiorum, and has long been tentatively identified as a view of the lake. Although the foreground seems to be a standard repoussoir device deriving ultimately from Claude Lorrain (compare for instance the Liber drawings Tate D08103, D08132; Turner Bequest CXVI B, CXVII E), the faint but carefully-outlined hills may relate to Derwentwater drawings in the Tweed and Lakes sketchbook (Tate D01021, D01084; Turner Bequest XXXV 19, 82) and subsequent watercolour studies (Tate D01102, D01103; Turner Bequest XXXVI H, I) which had informed a finished version in 1801;1 a version of about 1835 is in the British Museum, London.2
The design is close – the foregrounds almost interchangeable – to that of another Liber drawing, Dumbarton (untraced),3 which was engraved but not published;4 their similarities possibly led to Turner’s rejection of the present composition. The lone figure leaning on a rail in the Dumbarton view has its equivalent here in the reclining woman and sheep in the foreground. There is another, sketchier wash drawing, possibly also a Lake District subject, among the unengraved Turner Bequest drawings associated with the Liber (Tate D08099; Turner Bequest CXV 46). In the absence of specific evidence, the span of the Liber Studiorum’s active publication, 1807–19, is suggested here as a date range for the present work (as it is for various other unpublished designs).
Henry Vaughan owned the watercolour by 1878,5 and in 1896 Frank Short etched and mezzotinted the composition,6 as one of his interpretations of the unengraved Liber designs (Tate does not hold any impressions; see general Liber introduction).
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.331 no.282, reproduced.
Ibid., pp.401–2 no.871, reproduced p.402.
Forrester 1996, p.138 no.75i, reproduced.
Rawlinson 1878, pp.149–50 no.75; 1906, pp.174–5 no.75; Alexander J. Finberg, The History of Turner’s Liber Studiorum with a New Catalogue Raisonné, London 1924, pp.299–302 no.75.
Rawlinson 1878, p.172.
Hardie 1938, pp.71–2 no.39, reproduced p.[115] pl.XVIII.
Technical notes:
There have been minor colour changes to the sheet due to light exposure, with the edges appearing brighter where they have previously been protected by a mount. The initial pencil work was not always closely followed by the watercolour washes; these were followed by brushwork, with lights blotted out after they were wetted, leaving a hard edge of pigment (damage can look similar); the light for the lake’s surface was probably washed out. The brushwork was further worked with the fingers while it was wet (there are prominent prints in the group of trees to the left). The overall very warm brown comprises an Indian red pigment.1 The sheet is among five unengraved Liber-type drawings once owned by Henry Vaughan of which four ‘certainly, and all five probably, derive from the “Studies for Liber” sketchbook’,2 some leaves of which are watermarked ‘J Whatman | 1807’ (Tate; Turner Bequest CXV); the others are Tate D08179–D08180, D08182–D08183; Vaughan Bequest CXVIII Y, Z, b, c.
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files.
Forrester 1996, pp.16, 25 note 86 (analysis by Peter Bower, acknowledged p.8); see also Bower, Tate conservation files.
Blank, save for inscriptions.
Inscribed in pencil ‘94 | a’ centre, ‘CXVIII. a’ bottom left, ‘5’ bottom centre, and ‘Derwent –’ and ‘D08181’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘[crown] | N•G | CXVIII – a’ bottom left

Matthew Imms
May 2006

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘View of a Lake (?Derwentwater) c.1807–19 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, May 2006, 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-view-of-a-lake-derwentwater-r1131791, accessed 17 June 2024.