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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Water and Trees with a Distant Spire, Possibly at Chichester, Lichfield or Bedford c.1829-32

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Water and Trees with a Distant Spire, Possibly at Chichester, Lichfield or Bedford c.1829–32
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 105
Watercolour on white wove paper, 368 x 509 mm
Inscribed in red ink ‘105’ bottom right (now very faint)
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom centre
Stamped in black ‘CCLXIII – 105’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This atmospheric, very loose colour study, with its suggestion of a slender spire beyond water and trees, has been dated to ‘?1826’ by Andrew Wilton, with the provision that this was ‘very uncertain’.1 He compared its ‘rich, rather dark colouring’ to that of the Picturesque Views in England and Wales watercolour Louth of about 1827 or 1828 (British Museum, London),2 engraved in 1829 (Tate impressions: T04544, T04545), while also suggesting a ‘possible connection’ with Tate D25215 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 93), a Lichfield colour study of about 1832. (The finished watercolour of Lichfield of about 1830–5, in a private collection,3 was not engraved for England and Wales, although its format suggests it was produced for the series.) Wilton also compared the present work with Tate D25280 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 158), a ‘colour beginning’ mysteriously inscribed ‘Aurora Borealis’.4
As well as Lichfield,5 Eric Shanes has suggested further possibilities. Firstly, it might show Chichester Cathedral, West Sussex;6 for a more likely colour study of the subject (not developed for England and Wales), see Tate D25204 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 8). Secondly, it might be related to the watercolour Bedford of about 1829 (private collection),7 engraved in 1831 for England and Wales (Tate impressions: T04578, T05087), showing the town from the River Great Ouse.8 Again, the resemblance is very slight and probably fortuitous; for a somewhat more likely Bedford colour study, see Tate D25243 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 121).
Lastly, Shanes suggests a connection with a small gouache on blue paper French subject Jumièges of about 1832 (Tate D24577; Turner Bequest CCLIX 12),9 engraved for Turner’s Annual Tour – the Seine in 1834 (Tate impressions: T05602, T06232).10 It shows a view on the River Seine with the abbey at Jumièges in the distance, but any similarities with the present work would appear to be no more than generic.
Given the possible links to the particular subjects described above, a date of about 1829–32 has been proposed here, although, assuming a likely England and Wales connection, it might have been made earlier or later within the 1825–38 span of Turner’s involvement with the project. See also the Introductions to the present subsection of tentatively identified but unrealised subjects and the overall England and Wales ‘colour beginnings’ grouping to which this work has been assigned.
Wilton 1975, p.74.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.394 no.809, pl.186.
Ibid., p.403 no.882, reproduced.
Wilton 1975, p.74.
Shanes 1997, pp.94, 96, 105.
Ibid., pp.94, 105.
Wilton 1979, p.397 no.831.
Shanes 1997, pp.96, 105.
Wilton 1979, p.413 no.961, reproduced.
Shanes 1997, pp.94, 97, 105.
Technical notes:
Two small tears to the lower edge have been repaired from the verso.
Blank, save for inscriptions at bottom right: in pencil ‘AB 93 P’; stamped with Turner Bequest monogram above ‘CCLXIII – 105’; and in pencil ‘CCLXIIII 105’.

Matthew Imms
March 2013

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Water and Trees with a Distant Spire, Possibly at Chichester, Lichfield or Bedford c.1829–32 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-water-and-trees-with-a-distant-spire-possibly-at-chichester-r1144351, accessed 25 May 2024.