Joseph Mallord William Turner, R.A. (1775-1851)
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Joseph Mallord William Turner, R.A. (1775-1851)

View on the River Brent, North London

Joseph Mallord William Turner, R.A. (1775-1851)
View on the River Brent, North London
pencil and watercolour with gum arabic and with scratching out
15¾ x 27¼ in. (40 x 69.2 cm.)
James Rivington Wheeler, by circa 1820 and by descent to
Henry James Wheeler, his nephew; Foster and Sons, 1 June 1864, lot 121 (1,350 gns).
Captain H.R. Ray, by 1877.
A.L. Wheeler by 1887.
Mrs. G.E. Hunt by 1913.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 13 November 1980, lot 94, illustrated in colour, where purchased by the present owner.
Sir Walter Armstrong, Turner, London, 1902, p. 243.
A. Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg and London, 1979, p. 347, no. 417, as untraced.
M. Butlin and E. Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, New Haven and London, 2nd ed., 1986, p. 125 (under no. 198).
E. Yardley, 'The Turner Collector: "That Munificent Collector" - James Rivington Wheeler', Turner Studies, VI, no. 2, Winter 1986, pp. 51, 58 & 60, n. 24, illustrated fig. 8.
London, Royal Academy, Winter Exhibition, 1887, watercolour section, no. 63, lent by Alfred L. Wheeler.
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Lot Essay

The composition of this watercolour is a close variant of that of the oil painting of the same subject in a private collection (Butlin & Joll, op. cit., pp. 124-5, no. 198, pl. 198); unusually the size of the oil is all but the same, 14¾ x 27 in. (37.5 x 68.6 cm.). In the watercolour a single figure of a woman with a basket on her head replaces the harvesters with a laden wagon on the left of the oil and the shapes of the trees are different, somewhat more ethereal. The general tone of the watercolour is lighter, suggesting a later date. The 1887 Royal Academy exhibition catalogue dated it circa 1825, Armstrong circa 1820, and Wilton, sight unseen, but presumably on the basis of the oil, circa 1807. This dating was followed by Joll (Butlin & Joll, loc. cit.) but may be too early.

James Rivington Wheeler (1758-1834), a lawyer and friend of Turner, acquired six of his watercolours. For further information on Wheeler see Yardley (loc. cit.). View on the River Brent was sold in 1864 as a pendant to Off St Albans Head, circa 1822 (Harrogate Art Gallery; illustrated in Yardley, op. cit., fig. 9), but there is little relationship save in general size and format. A label on the back gives Captain Ray as the owner in 1877; he appears to have been the brother-in-law of Henry James Wheeler. Mrs G.E. Hunt was Henry James Wheeler's daughter (for a family tree, see Yardley, op. cit., p. 59).

What was a countrified stretch of river leading into the Thames west of London is now engulfed in the suburban area of Brentford and Chiswick. The river enters the Thames just above Kew Bridge, facing what was Kew Palace, now Kew Gardens, and would have been known to Turner from his extensive work on the Thames in 1805 (see D. Hill, Turner on the Thames, New Haven and London, 1993, pp. 28, 29, 35); his studies of trees by the river in the Studies for Pictures Isleworth Sketchbook of 1805 (Tate Britain, Turner Bequest, XC-14; Hill, op. cit., pl. 39) have much the same feeling as the present watercolour.

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