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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

The Aqueduct Sketchbook c.1816–18

Turner Bequest CLII
Sketchbook, bound in card covered in blue and pink marbled paper printed with text from the Bible
Sixteen leaves in one signature of medium-weight white wove paper, and inside covers of white laid paper
Approximate page size 180 x 117 mm
Pages watermarked ‘C WILLMOTT 1812’ or ‘R BARNARD 1812’
Inscribed by Turner in ink ‘100’ on a label on the spine
Endorsed by the Executors of the Turner Bequest in brown ink ‘No. 256 | Containing 11 leaves –| Pencil Sketches – |’, signed by Henry Scott Trimmer ‘H. S. Trimmer’ and Charles Turner ‘C. Turner’, initialled by Charles Lock Eastlake in pencil ‘C.L.E’ and John Prescott Knight in pencil ‘J.P.K.’ and inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘5 taken out JR’ inside front cover (D40713)
Finberg recorded a further endorsement by Ruskin, ‘256. A few leaves only, but very precious English. Pencil’, on an old wrapper, but this does not appear to have been preserved
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This sketchbook was used in sequence with the Scarborough 1 and Scarborough 2 sketchbooks (Tate D11914–D11951; D40706–D40707; Turner Bequest CL and D11952–D11973; D40708–D40711; Turner Bequest CLI) on a tour to Scarborough and thence via Malton and York to Farnley Hall, the home of Turner’s Yorkshire patron Walter Fawkes.
The book begins with three pages of largely indecipherable drafts of a poem on the theme of ‘Sweet Independence’. The sketches begin at Crambe Beck, between Malton and York, where those in the Scarborough 2 sketchbook finish, and continue through York and Thorp Arch to the Farnley area, where the main run of sketches records subjects in the Washburn Valley around Leathley and Lindley bridge.
Given the book’s contiguity with Scarborough 1 and Scarborough 2, the most definitive piece of evidence for dating is the 1818 inscription on a finished watercolour of Scarborough (private collection)1 derived from sketches in those two books, which provides a latest possible date for the visit. Finberg dated the book to c.1816–18 and this seems reasonable on grounds of style. The 1980 York exhibition dated the tour to 1815, but on no certain evidence. The present writer has since preferred 1816, on the grounds that the journey was almost certainly taken in connection with Turner’s proposed series of illustrations for Thomas Dunham Whitaker’s projected seven-volume General History of the County of York.2 Turner made extensive tours in Yorkshire in 1816 to gather material for that project, suggesting the date of 1816 for all material with a probable Whitaker connection, in the absence of any compelling alternative. This date has since been followed by Anthony Bailey.
Finberg’s title for the sketchbook, “The Aqueduct”, is given in italics and quotations as if it were derived from an inscription of Turner’s on a label or on the cover. No such inscription is present, however, nor indeed is any actually described by Finberg, so one must surmise that the title was his own invention. As it stands now it is perhaps a little misleading. Finberg associated the sketches beginning with D11976; Turner Bequest CLII 2 with a mezzotint made by Turner for his series of prints, the Liber Studiorum.3 Any connection, however, appears to be largely superficial. One might better call it ‘From Scarborough to Farnley’ but the existing title has been retained.
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Freiburg 1979, p.360 no.529.
The full story of the commission is given by David Hill, In Turner’s Footsteps: Through the Hills and Dales of Northern England, London 1984.
See Gillian Forrester in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann (eds.), The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, pp.166–9.

David Hill
September 2008

View as:

How to cite

David Hill, ‘The Aqueduct Sketchbook c.1816–18’, sketchbook, September 2008, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, September 2014, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/the-aqueduct-sketchbook-r1146998, accessed 22 May 2024.