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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Yorkshire 1 sketchbook 1816

Turner Bequest CXLIV
Notebook, bound in boards covered in chestnut brown leather with a three-loop fastening for a pencil, with blue marbled endpapers inside both front and back covers
108 leaves (including one pasted to the verso of the front endpaper) of white wove paper
Approximate page size 154 x 97 mm
Watermarked ‘1813’
Bookseller’s trade label, ‘Gardiner & Son | No.20 | Princes Street | Cavendish Sq.’, printed on a yellow oval, attached inside the back (presumably original front) cover
Inscribed by Turner in ink ‘Yorkshire 1’ on front (presumably original back) cover (D40846), inverted
Endorsed by the Executors of the Turner Bequest in ink ‘No 261– | 78 leaves of pencil sketches’ signed by Henry Scott Trimmer in ink ‘H. S. Trimmer’ and initialled by Charles Lock Eastlake in pencil ‘C.L.E.’ and John Prescott Knight ‘JPK’ on folio 1 (D10868)
A label inscribed by Turner ‘43 Yorkshire 1’, seen by Finberg on the ‘back’ (spine), is no longer present. Nor is John Ruskin’s inscription ‘261. A valuable book of the middle time. Not worth dividing at present’, seen by Finberg on a paper wrapper
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This thick, pocket-notebook is of the kind that Turner often carried with him on major tours.1 He used it to record a tour from Farnley Hall, the home of his Yorkshire patron Walter Fawkes,2 through the central dales of Yorkshire in the late summer of 1816 (see notes on dating, below) to collect subjects for his illustrations to Thomas Dunham Whitaker’s proposed General History of the County of York3 and to make a few studies for historical and classical compositions. The Yorkshire 3 sketchbook (Tate D11372–D11441; D40835–D40838; Turner Bequest CXLVI) accompanied him on the same part of the tour, and some overlap of subjects indicates that the Devonshire Rivers, No.3, and Wharfedale (Tate D09789–D09855; D09857–D09888; D40878–D40884; Turner Bequest CXXXIV) and Large Farnley sketchbooks (D09017–D09057; D41389; Turner Bequest CXXVIII) might have been used at the same time.
The position of the trade label and of Turner’s inscription on the cover indicates that the pages of the book have been numbered in reverse. It appears that Turner started work at one end of the book with a sequence of classical/historical subjects, and began again from the opposite end to record his 1816 Yorkshire itinerary. It is not clear when the classical studies were made (except prior to setting out on the tour of Yorkshire in 1816), or where. The Yorkshire sketches constitute the main sequence of the book, so the given numbering adequately reflects its main purpose. The Yorkshire itinerary begins at Spofforth and Plompton Rocks, and continues eastwards via Wetherby, Cowthorpe, Healaugh and Bilton to York. Turner then heads north-west via Boroughbridge and Newby Hall to Ripon and Fountains Abbey, and follows the River Ure to Hackfall, West Tanfield, Masham, Jervaulx, Coverdale and Middleham. The clarity of the itinerary breaks up a little after this but there are sketches at Constable Burton, Hornby Castle, Baldersby Park and Topcliffe near Thirsk before the final sketches at Knaresborough. Many of these subjects occur in the larger Yorkshire 3 sketchbook taken on the same tour, and Turner seems to have been using the present sketchbook for his exploratory sketches before making more considered drawings in the larger book. Despite the energy and care that Turner invested in this itinerary the Whitaker project was curtailed, and in the event none of this material was utilised in finished compositions. One sketch of Knaresborough, folio 56 verso (D10972) did serve later as the basis of a finished watercolour4 for the series Picturesque Views in England and Wales.
The sketchbook was dated 1815–16 by Finberg and this date was followed by Herbert Wroot,5 the reasoning being subsequently explained by Finberg in the Life6 and later by John Gage.7 On 1 August 1815 Turner wrote to his friend Henry Scott Trimmer8 to say that he was about to set out for Farnley Hall, and that his host Walter Fawkes proposed keeping him in the north until November for a tour to the Lakes. It is a natural consequence therefore for scholars to seek to assign Yorkshire work to that year.9 Apart from the watermark of 1813, there is little hard evidence by which to date the book but the note on folio 105 (D11039) of a £5 banknote, dated 11 May 1816,10 cashed at Richmond, Yorkshire11 provides an unusually direct confirmation of when the sketchbook was in use. The same banknote is recorded in the Yorkshire 2 sketchbook (Tate D11370; Turner Bequest CXLV 186a), which documents a separate visit to Richmond. This would tie together two itineraries in Yorkshire in 1816; that represented by the Yorkshire 2, Yorkshire 4 and Yorkshire 5 sketchbooks, and another by the Yorkshire 1 and Yorkshire 3 sketchbooks. This meshes well with the fact that Turner seems, in numbering them as one sequence, to have thought of them all as a single group.12 Among Turner scholars this general line is followed by Andrew Wilton,13 the present writer,14 Luke Herrmann15 and most subsequent commentators.16 The tour represented by the Yorkshire 2, Yorkshire 4 and Yorkshire 5 sketchbooks can be quite precisely dated to mid-July/mid-August 1816, and the present writer surmises that the itinerary in Yorkshire 1 belongs to late August or early September that year.
Comparable books used in Yorkshire in 1816 include the Yorkshire 2 and Yorkshire 6 sketchbooks (Tate D11042–D11371; D40844–D40845; D41443; Turner Bequest CXLV and Tate D11596–D11908; D40859; Turner Bequest CXLIX).
See James Hamilton, ‘Fawkes, Walter Ramsden (1769–1825)’, in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann (eds.), The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, pp.103–5.
For a full account of the commission see Hill 1984.
Wilton 1979, p.394 no.804.
Wroot 1924, p.237.
Finberg 1961 p.228.
Gage 1980, p.61 note 1.
Ibid., pp.60–1 no.56.
See for example Hill, Warburton and Tussey 1980, pp.26, 30.
The date is that of the issue of the banknote rather than that of its encashment.
Turner did not sketch Richmond in the present sketchbook, but did so in the Yorkshire 3 sketchbook (Tate D11412; Turner Bequest CXLVI 27), which accompanied him on the same journey.
However, other numbers given to these sketchbooks are not sequential; Yorkshire 3 is ‘81’, Yorkshire 4 ‘78’ or ‘79’, Yorkshire 5 ‘110’ and Yorkshire 6 ‘64’.
Wilton 1979, p.364; Wilton 1987, p.126.
Hill 1984, p.27.
Herrmann 1990, pp.100, 225.
This does, however, still leave the mystery of a visit to the Lakes in 1815. The only evidence for such a trip at about this period is two watercolours of Tent Lodge, Coniston once in the collection of Walter Fawkes (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Wilton 1979, p.363 no.552, as ‘1818’; untraced, ibid., p.363 no.553, as ‘c.1815’). Gage 1980, p.61 note 1 says ‘Turner did not visit the Lakes’.

David Hill
January 2009

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How to cite

David Hill, ‘Yorkshire 1 sketchbook 1816’, sketchbook, January 2009, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2013, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/yorkshire-1-sketchbook-r1144054, accessed 19 August 2022.