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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Watercolours Related to Samuel Rogers’s Poems c.1830–2

Turner Bequest CCXXVII a 14, CCLXIII 221, CCLXXX 10, 12, 15–19, 61, 65, 90–91, 93–94, 99–100, 108, 162, 168–192, 194–204, verso of 175, verso of 197
In around 1830 Turner began work on a group of vignette illustrations for a luxury edition of Poems by Samuel Rogers,. Of all the poets whose works Turner illustrated, such as Byron, Scott, Campbell, and Milton, Rogers is probably the least well known today. However, the vignettes that Turner created for Rogers’s Italy (1830) and, shortly thereafter for Poems (1834), are considered to be his finest works of literary illustration.
Samuel Rogers (1763–1855), a wealthy banker turned poet, achieved literary renown with his enormously popular poem The Pleasures of Memory (1792).1 Although he would never surpass this early success, he nonetheless remained deeply engaged in the cultural circles of early nineteenth-century London. His famous breakfast parties at his house in St James Place brought together the artistic and literary luminaries of the day, including Turner and a number of poets whose works Turner would later illustrate. An imaginary version of one such gathering can be seen in Charles Mottram’s engraving of 1823 (Tate T04907). Turner’s first series of literary vignettes for Rogers was the immensely successful illustrations for Italy, published in 1830 (see the Introduction to Rogers’s Italy).
Turner probably began designing vignettes for a second volume of Rogers’s poetry even before Italy was published.2 Poems was published by Thomas Cadell and Edward Moxon in 1834, with the costs again being covered by the poet himself. The volume, which contained thirty-three illustrations by Turner and thirty-four by Stothard, was designed and printed in the same fine style as Italy. The production costs were again enormous, and Rogers later told a friend that he had spent a total of £15,000 publishing the two volumes.3
Poems contains a wide range of Rogers’s writings, beginning with his most acclaimed work, The Pleasures of Memory. Many of the poems in this collection are set in the English countryside, and Turner was again able to draw upon material from his own travels, in this case from his various tours in England and Wales. As with Italy, Turner owned a working copy of Poems, in which he marked potential subjects for illustration (see Tate D36330; Turner Bequest CCCLXVI).4 Although Turner’s painting style is much the same for the two projects, the designs in the later volume tend to be more boldly composed and to be painted in a brighter palette. His mastery of the vignette format is nowhere more visible than in Tornaro and The Alps at Daybreak, which capture enormous disparities of scale and dramatic light effects in their miniature compositions (Tate D27689; D27701; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 172, 184). The ethereal brushwork and shimmering palette of scenes such as Keswick Lake and St Herbert’s Chapel transform well-known English topographical sites into realms of magic and fantasy (Tate D27698, D27697; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 181, 180). A similar sense of enchantment pervades the illustrations to the final poem in Rogers’s collection, The Voyage of Columbus. The poem reflects the popular interest in Columbus’s achievements generated by the publication of Washington Irving’s The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus in 1828. Rogers’s retelling casts the explorer as a noble and pious hero who brings the light of Christian revelation to the benighted pagan populations of America. Filled with evil spirits, warrior ghosts, and good angels, The Voyage of Columbus inspired some of Turner’s most beautiful and mysterious compositions.
Like its predecessor, Poems met with enormous success. The engravings after Turner’s illustrations were produced by Robert Miller, Robert Wallis, Henry Le Keux and Edward Goodall; their quality was such that Ruskin would describe them as ‘the loveliest engravings ever produced by pure line.’5 The Athenaeum again offered its hearty endorsement of the volume:
We have called this a book: it is something better; it is a gallery of the fairest pictures. The painters were aware of the fastidious taste and nice judgment which would examine and weigh their labours, and they wrought in a manner which transcends all their former exertions. Even ‘Italy’ cannot be compared with ‘The Pleasures of Memory’; ‘Jacqueline,’ and ‘The Voyage of Columbus’. Here we have more variety, and perhaps superior beauty; some of the landscapes of Turner are truly poetic and sublime ... Nor have the engravers been unconscious of the importance of their tasks; Goodall, Finden, and Miller, have surpassed themselves.6
By 1847, a total of 50,000 copies of Poems and Italy had been sold making Turner’s art accessible to an unprecedented number of British viewers.7 Among them was the young John Ruskin, who received a copy of Italy on his thirteenth birthday and would later ‘attribute to the gift the entire direction of my life’s energies.’8 It is Rogers’s biographer, P.W. Clayden, who offers the most eloquent summary of the significance that these vignettes had, both for Turner and for his audience:
There can be little doubt that the illustrations to Italy and the Poems first made Turner known to the vast multitudes of the English people. One of the most vivid recollections of my own boyhood is the wakening up of a new sense of an ideal world of beauty as I lingered over the lovely landscapes on these delightful pages ... there are many whose recollections of these two volumes harmonise with mine, to whom they were an education, and who learned from them to admire Turner before they had actually seen one of his paintings.9
All of Turner’s finished watercolour vignettes related to Rogers’s Poems are in the Turner Bequest. There are also a considerable number of preparatory studies. Catalogue entries are listed below according to their order of appearance in Rogers’s text, with any related preliminary studies. This assigned sequence disrupts the partially consecutive run of Tate accession numbers and Turner Bequest numbers.
Rogers’s Poems vignette titlePublished page referenceTate number Turner Bequest (Finberg) numberRawlinson number and related Tate numberRelated studies
A Garden
FrontispieceD27679CCLXXX 162 R373
D27534 CCLXXX 17
A Village. Evening
p.7D27685 CCLXXX 168 R374
The Gipsy
p.11D27690CCLXXX 173 R375
Leaving Home
p.15D27686CCLXXX 169R376
Greenwich Hospital
p.33D27693CCLXXX 176 R377
D27611 CCLXXX 94
Keswick Lake
p.36D27698CCLXXX 181R378D27608 CCLXXX 91
St. Herbert’s Chapel
p.40D27697CCLXXX 180R379
T04674 and T06162
An Old Manor-House
p.63D27718CCLXXX 201 R380
T05115 and T06163
D27532 CCLXXX 15
p.80D27689CCLXXX 172R381
T06164 and T06644
A Village-Fair
p.84D27717CCLXXX 200R382
T04675 and T06165
Traitor’s Gate, Tower of London
p.88D27694CCLXXX 177 R383
T05116 and T06166
D27610 CCLXXX 93
St. Anne’s Hill, I
p.91D27687CCLXXX 170R384
A Hurricane in the Desert (The Simoom)
p.94D27712CCLXXX 195 R385D27578 CCLXXX 61
D27582 CCLXXX 65
Venice (The Rialto – Moonlight)
p.95D27713CCLXXX 196R386
D27625 CCLXXX 108
p.144D27702CCLXXX 185R387
St Pierre’s Cottage
p.146D27700CCLXXX 183R388
St Julienne’s Chapel
p.151D27703CCLXXX 186 R389
p.172D27704CCLXXX 187 R390
D20817 CCXXVII a 14
D25343 CCLXIII 221
D27527 CCLXXX 10
An Old Oak
p.176D27691CCLXXX 174R391 T05117D27533 CCLXXX 16
Ship-building (An Old Oak Dead)
p.178D27692CCLXXX 175 R392
T05118, T05119, and T05797
Verso of CCLXXX 175
The Boy of Egremond
p.184D27695CCLXXX 178R393
Bolton Abbey
p.186D27696CCLXXX 179 R394
The Alps (The Alps at Daybreak)
p.191D27701CCLXXX 184 R395
Loch Lomond
p.203D27699CCLXXX 182 R396
T06168 and T06646
St Anne’s Hill, II (In the Garden)
p.214D27688CCLXXX 171 R397
T05123 and T06169
Columbus and his Son
p.219D27705CCLXXX 188R398
T05124 and T06170
Columbus Setting Sail
p.227D27706CCLXXX 189R399
T05125 and T06171
D27535 CCLXXX 18
D27536 CCLXXX 19
The Vision of Columbus
p.233D27714CCLXXX 197R400
T05126 and T06172
D40175 Verso of CCLXXX 197
D27720 CCLXXX 203
D27721 CCLXXX 204
Land Discovered by Columbus
p.248D27707CCLXXX 190 R401
T05127 and T06173
The Landing of Columbus
p.251D27708CCLXXX 191 R402
T05128, T05129, and T06174
D27711 CCLXXX 194
D27529 CCLXXX 12
D27616 CCLXXX 99
A Tempest – Voyage of Columbus
p.264D27719CCLXXX 202 R403
T04677 and T05130
D27617 CCLXXX 100
Cortes and Pizarro
p.265D27709CCLXXX 192 R404
Evening (Datur Hora Quieti)
p.296D27716CCLXXX 199 R405 T05132 and T05133D27607 CCLXXX 90
Going to School
UnpublishedD27715CCLXXX 198
The titles given follow those listed by Jan Piggott in his catalogue of Turner’s vignettes, which in turn are those given by Samuel Rogers or the publisher Edward Moxon on the finished portfolio engravings and in the 1838 quarto editions.10
Note: Following ongoing research across the Turner Bequest, in 2016 two further studies for Captivity (p.172 in the table above) have been included here (Tate D20817, D25343; Turner Bequest CCXXVII a 14, CCLXIII 221). The text of this Introduction is otherwise unchanged.
Cecilia Powell, ‘Turner’s Vignettes and the Making of Rogers’ “Italy” ’, Turner Studies, vol. 3, no. 1, 1983, p.2.
Piggott 1993, p.39.
See the inscription in the copy of Italy belonging to Alexander Dyce, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Turner’s working copy of Italy is now in a private collection.
John Ruskin, Works, eds. E.T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, London 1903–12, vol.XIII, p.380.
Athenaeum, 14 December 1833, p.841.
Powell 1983, p.11.
Cook and Wedderburn (eds) London, 1903–12, vol.XXXV, p.29.
Quoted in Powell 1983, p.11.
Jan Piggot, Turner’s Vignettes, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1993, p.95.

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

Revised by Matthew Imms
September 2016

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How to cite

Meredith Gamer, ‘Watercolours Related to Samuel Rogers’s Poems c.1830–2’, subset, August 2006, revised by Matthew Imms, September 2016, 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/watercolours-related-to-samuel-rogerss-poems-r1133334, accessed 13 July 2024.