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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Studies for Possible ‘Little Liber’ Compositions c.1823–6

Turner Bequest CXCVII D, F, CCLXIII 183, 193, 206, 216, 217, 252, 305, 306, CCCLXIV 83, 352, CCCLXV 27a, 27b
While a parallel subsection includes those watercolours directly associated with the so-called ‘Little Liber’ mezzotint engravings, the present grouping is a selection of ‘colour beginnings’ which appear much the same mode, if not actually intended to inform additional prints in the series of landscape and seascape compositions acting as vehicles for strongly atmospheric effects of light and weather, as described in the overall Introduction. Previous writers on Turner have addressed many of the works here in the same terms, as noted in individual entries, and loose comparisons are made with the canonical compositions as appropriate. See also the present author’s ‘Colour Studies of the Sun, Skies and Clouds c.1815–45’ section.
Turner’s extensive use of free-form ‘colour beginnings’ to develop and inform his compositions was most prevalent during the 1820s and 1830s, but had been growing for some years previously and effectively never ended. For a discussion of the function of such colour studies in general, see the Introduction to the ‘England and Wales Colour Studies c.1825–39’ section.1
In the context of the ‘Little Liber’, the works included here are all placed at about 1823–6, though their dating has previously varied widely within the parameters set in Finberg’s 1909 Inventory at about 1820 or earlier for the Turner Bequest section CXCVI,2 1820–30 for CCLXIII,3 and after about 1830 for CCCLXIV and CCCLXV.4
See also Eric Shanes, ‘Beginnings’ in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann (eds.), The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, pp.21–3; among many other accounts, see also Andrew Wilton in Martin Butlin, Wilton and John Gage, Turner 1775–1851, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy, London 1974, p.26; and Wilton 1979, p.187.
A.J. Finberg, A Complete Inventory of the Drawings of the Turner Bequest, London 1909, vol.I, p.598.
Ibid., II, p.814.
Ibid., pp.1178, 1211.

Matthew Imms
September 2016

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How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Studies for Possible ‘Little Liber’ Compositions c.1823–6’, subset, September 2016, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2016, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/studies-for-possible-little-liber-compositions-r1183681, accessed 28 January 2022.