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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner West Malling: St Mary's Abbey with the Cascade; a Study of Posts and a Signpost 1791-2

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
West Malling: St Mary’s Abbey with the Cascade; a Study of Posts and a Signpost 1791–2
Turner Bequest XVII I
Pencil, pen and brown ink and watercolour, main subject 226 x 291 mm on heavy white wove paper, 450 x 292 mm
Watermark ‘J WHATMAN’
Stamped in brown ink with Turner Bequest monogram bottom centre of main subject
Inscribed in red ink ‘XVII.I’ bottom right of main subject
Stamped in black ‘XVII I’ bottom right of main subject
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The main subject is the north corner of the west front of the Abbey, a Benedictine foundation which was in private ownership in Turner’s time, and is once again a religious foundation today. The identification of the site has been confirmed by Mr Tim Harker of West Malling. The Abbey was purchased and converted into a residence by Fraser Honeywood; it passed to his son Sir John Honeywood, who sold the property to George Foote in 1799. The fountain was restored in 1810 (the date is given on an extant plaque), giving it the appearance of a neo-gothick folly, but Turner’s record suggests that it was indeed a late medieval structure belonging to the original Abbey. See also the drawing on the verso of this sheet (D40228). Another view of the Abbey, showing the west front and dating from the same time, was sold at Sotheby’s, London, 7 June 2006 (366, reproduced in colour; Sotheby’s catalogued the drawing as showing East Malling, rather than West Malling, citing an inscription purporting to be Turner’s own but clearly spurious: it read ‘East Malling Abbey | Kent | J.M.W.Turner RA Delt’).
Stylistically the watercolour is close to Turner’s ‘Llandewi Skyrrid’ subjects (Tate D00143–D00145; Turner Bequest XII N, O, P) but may belong to a slightly earlier time: the figures, for instance, are less accomplished. There is a pencil study of posts and a signpost below.
Technical notes:
The sheet of Whatman card, folded twice across the centre, has been used as the cover of a portfolio or sketchbook; there are holes for lacing along either side of the fold.

Andrew Wilton
April 2012

How to cite

Andrew Wilton, ‘West Malling: St Mary’s Abbey with the Cascade; a Study of Posts and a Signpost 1791–2 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, April 2012, 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-west-malling-st-marys-abbey-with-the-cascade-a-study-of-r1140285, accessed 09 December 2019.