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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Windsor Castle; Eton College, and Houses nearby on the River Thames c.1827

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 4 Verso:
Windsor Castle; Eton College, and Houses nearby on the River Thames c.1827
Turner Bequest CCXXV 4a
Pencil on white wove paper, 116 x 222 mm
Inscribed by Turner in pencil ‘wall’ above centre and ‘whe[...]’ below centre
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
At the top is the north front of Windsor Castle, looking south-west from near the River Thames, as a supplementary study to the views on folios 1 recto, 2 recto and verso and 3 recto (D20558–D20561). The main sketch, across the middle of the page, was made at or near the same viewpoint, and shows Eton College. The castellated school, about half a mile north of the castle on the opposite bank, was founded by Henry VI in 1440 and is dominated by the Perpendicular Gothic chapel he had built over the next two decades;1 it is seen from the east, with the Thames in the foreground. Perhaps owing to Finberg’s misidentification of this subject as ‘St. George’s Chapel’2 at Windsor Castle, it does not appear to have been recognised previously as the direct source for the watercolour Eton College of about 1829 (currently untraced),3 engraved for Turner’s Picturesque Views in England and Wales in 1831 (Tate impressions: T04576, T04577).
Turner had first addressed the subject in 1787 (Tate D00003; Turner Bequest I C), copying a print by Paul Sandby. By 1799 he was making a pencil study (Tate D02212; Turner Bequest XLVII 35) in preparation for an engraved view of 1803 (Tate impression: T05941). In 1805 he drew the school in the Wey, Guildford sketchbook (including Tate D06344, D06354, D06358; Turner Bequest XCVIII 129a, 134a, 136a), and a little later in the Windsor and Eton sketchbook (Tate D06075–D06081; Turner Bequest XCVII 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10). His painting The Thames at Eton was exhibited in 1808 (Tate T03873; on display at Petworth House, West Sussex).4
He later developed the subject for the Liber Studiorum around 1818–22 (Tate D08174; Turner Bequest CXVIII T). There is another view in the Naples, Paestum and Rome sketchbook, largely in use in 1819 (Tate D16087; Turner Bequest CLXXXVI 90a), and others, possibly of 1827 and perhaps made on the same occasion as the present drawing (see this sketchbook’s Introduction), in the Windsor and Cowes, Isle of Wight sketchbook (Tate D20601, D20602; Turner Bequest CCXXVI 4, 4a).
One of the Wey, Guildford sketches (D06344) is notable in showing the same aspect as the present drawing, albeit in much less detail, with the buildings and trees roughly hatched to suggest the sun coming from behind them in late afternoon and with more prominent trees on each side, as developed in the England and Wales view; Turner possibly looked back at the earlier sketch, combining its tighter composition with the architectural details noted here. The already wide view in the present sketch is extended by a detail below, showing buildings (now gone) which appear to have been on a terrace along the river bank in the foreground on the right, as shown in the 1827 watercolour by William Daniell (1769–1837), A View of Eton College (Eton College collection), which was also aquatinted for the series Select Views of Windsor Castle and the Adjacent Scenery. Daniell shows a very similar prospect; indeed, his watercolour included all the features sketched by Turner, whereas the latter simplified and condensed the view for England and Wales where (as Eric Shanes has noted), he seems to have capriciously introduced trees on Romney Island in the left foreground, where there were none at the time,5 although it is now wooded.

Matthew Imms
August 2014

See ‘A brief history of Eton College’, Eton College, accessed 6 March 2014, http://www.etoncollege.com/briefhistory.aspx?nid=37777882-2882-40dd-a671-cc2c68fcc399.
Finberg 1909, II, p.694.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.397 no.830, reproduced.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.55 no.71, pl.81.
See Eric Shanes, Turner’s England 1810–38, London 1990, pp.209, 285 note 150, reproducing the Daniell for comparison as fig.24.

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Windsor Castle; Eton College, and Houses nearby on the River Thames c.1827 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, August 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-windsor-castle-eton-college-and-houses-nearby-on-the-river-r1172972, accessed 22 May 2024.