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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Young Anglers c.1808

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Young Anglers circa 1808
Turner Bequest CXVII I
Pencil and watercolour on off-white wove writing paper, 185 x 265 mm
Watermark ‘J Whatman | 1801’
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Etching and mezzotint by Turner and Robert Dunkarton, ‘Young Anglers’, published Turner, 1 June 1811
Along with Juvenile Tricks and Marine Dabblers (see Tate D08127, D08133; Turner Bequest CXVI Z, CXVII F) this composition is one of three Liber Studiorum subjects showing boys playing. Turner’s subtitle for the present composition in his notebook (see below), ‘Jews Harp’, refers to a London public house and/or tea gardens in ‘Love Lane, Marylebone Fields’,1 not far to the north of Harley Street and Queen Anne Street West in Marylebone where Turner lived and exhibited his work. The site, recalled approvingly by William Blake in Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion together with ‘Ponds where Boys to bathe delight’,2 was then on the semi-rural fringes of the growing West End, in the area later developed as Regent’s Park.3 Several contemporary views of buildings and a neighbouring pond in a rural setting (Guildhall Library Print Room, London, p5389089, p5386429, p5389586, p538957x, p5389592) are said to show the Jew’s Harp – or the nearby Queen’s Head and Artichoke Inn – but do not closely resemble the houses drawn by Turner. Gillian Forrester has discussed the composition in the contexts of the expansion of urban London during the early nineteenth century and the work of rising younger artists such as David Wilkie, and William Mulready with his ‘picturesque sub-urban pastoral’4
Jack Lindsay has noted various instances of Turner’s sympathetic interest in children’s waterside play.5 With his usual condescension towards Turner’s depiction of everyday figures, Stopford Brooke described the boys investigating the contents of a watering can as ‘coarse, and coarsely drawn; but they are true to their type, and Turner never gilded the poor. ... The one graceful figure is that of the working man fishing near the tree; and he is graceful because he knows his work. It is the true attitude of the fisherman.’6 In private, Ruskin had taken ‘the sport of children about a willowy pond’7 as one aspect of Turner’s broad sympathy for humanity, but had later decided that in such Liber subjects ‘the commonplace prevails to an extent greatly destructive of the value of the series, ... introducing rather discord than true opponent emotion among the grander designs’.8 In Modern Painters, he used the Liber engraving as an example of Turner’s prowess in tree drawing, with its ‘piece of pollard willow’ clearly demonstrating ‘the main tendencies of its growth.’9
The composition is recorded, as ‘8[:] 1 Boys Fishing Jews Harp’, in the Liber Notes (2) sketchbook (Tate D12157; Turner Bequest CLIV (a) 24), in a draft schedule of the first ten parts of the Liber (D12156–D12158; CLIV (a) 23a–24a)10 dated by Finberg and Gillian Forrester to before the middle of 1808.11 It also appears later in the sketchbook, as ‘7 Boy Fishing’, in a list of published and unpublished ‘Pastoral’ subjects (Tate D12160; Turner Bequest CLIV (a) 25a).12
The Liber Studiorum etching and mezzotint engraving, etched by Turner and engraved by Robert Dunkarton, bears the publication date 1 June 1811 and was issued to subscribers as ‘Young Anglers’ in part 7 (Rawlinson/Finberg nos.32–36;13 see also Tate D08137, D08138, D08139; Turner Bequest CXVII J, K, L). Tate holds impressions of the preliminary outline etching (Tate A00974) and the published engraving (A00975). It is one of fourteen published Liber subjects in Turner’s ‘Pastoral’ category (see also Tate D08102, D08111, D08116, D08121, D08127, D08140, D08145, D08151, D08158, D08167; Turner Bequest CXVI A, J, O, T, Z, CXVII M, Q, W, CXVIII D, M; and Tate N02941).
Finberg 1924, p.127.
Quoted in Forrester 1996, p.91; see Morton D. Paley ed., William Blake: Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion, Blake’s Illuminated Books, vol.I, London 1991, p.170: ‘To the Jews’, lines 13–14.
See Forrester 1996, p.91 and note 1, and also p.70.
Ibid, p.91 and note 3.
Jack Lindsay, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work: A Critical Biography, London 1966, p.17.
Brooke 1885, pp.[104], 105.
Letter to the Rev. H.G. Liddell, 12 October 1844, transcribed in Cook and Wedderburn III 1903, p.673.
Notes by Mr. Ruskin. ... On his Drawings by the Late J.M.W. Turner, R.A. ..., exhibition catalogue, Fine Art Society, London 1878, in ibid., XIII 1904, p.434.
Ibid., VII 1903, p.92; see also Rawlinson 1878, p.69.
Forrester 1996, pp.160–1 (transcribed).
Finberg 1924, p.xliii; Forrester 1996, pp.13–14.
Forrester 1996, p.161 (transcribed).
Rawlinson 1878, pp.69–76; 1906, pp.80–9; Finberg 1924, pp.125–44.
Technical notes:
The same ‘J Whatman | 1801’ paper – made at Turkey Mill in Kent by William Balston and the Hollingworth Brothers – and Indian Red pigment were used for Juvenile Tricks and Marine Dabblers, and for a further Liber design, Hedging and Ditching (Tate D08151; Turner Bequest CXVII W).1 Initial pencil sketching and reserves for the figures meant that no scratching-out was required. Details of the buildings, pale in the distance, were painted onto wet paper. The very warm brown overall colour results from the use of a single Indian red pigment; the thick wash at the lower edge is proteinaceous (i.e. organic) and is probably glue size.2 The fishing rods and reeds were washed out. There is some isolated spotting, particularly in the sky and some damage or rubbing above the objects in the left foreground.
Forrester 1996, pp.70, 71 note 1 (paper analysis by Peter Bower, and pigment analysis by Joyce Townsend, acknowledged p.8).
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files.
Blank, save for inscriptions.
Inscribed in pencil ‘CXVII I | Pl 32’ top left, ‘3’ and ‘I’ centre, and ’32 bottom left
Stamped in black ‘[crown] | N•G | CXVII I’ bottom left

Matthew Imms
August 2009

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Young Anglers c.1808 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, August 2009, 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-young-anglers-r1131739, accessed 19 June 2024.