PROPERTY OF THE DESCENDANTS OF MABEL G. DEAKIN
by T. Jeavons, 1828, for Heath's Picturesque Views in England and Wales
It is late in the afternoon and whereas much of the scene is bathed in a warm sunlight, the river Nidd, with its steep-sided banks, is enveloped in deep shadow. On the river bank itself stands the late 18th century cotton mill, which is alive with activity, its chimneys billowing and lights burning brightly inside. Perhaps, in an effort to juxtapose these indications of modernity with something timeless, in the foreground to the right, Turner shows a young shepherdess waving enthusiastically to a distant cattle herder. In reply he raises his hat, while his cows continue their melodic route down a rocky path.
This celebrated watercolour was among the first works to be engraved for Charles Heath’s publishing project Picturesque Views in England and Wales. In February of that year, Heath wrote excitedly to a friend ‘I have just begun a most splendid work [with] Turner the Academician. He is making me 120 Drawings of England and Wales – I have got four and they are the finest things I ever saw… I mean to have them engraved by all the first Artists.’1 The publication was to be produced in parts and the first tranche was ready by March 1827. Knaresborough was engraved in January 1829 by Thomas Jeavons and included in the fifth volume. In the summer of 1833, Heath organised an exhibition of sixty-six watercolours from the series, including the present work, at the Moon, Boys and Graves Gallery at 6 Pall Mall, London. After an evening soirée at the gallery, The Times reported that ‘two hundred artists and literati’2 had been present and it was also noted that ‘Turner himself was there, his coarse, stout person, heavy look and homely manners contrasting strangely with the marvellous beauty and grace of the surrounding creations of his pencil.’3 Despite the critical success of the exhibition, the engravings were unprofitable for Heath. By 1836 he had decided to reduce the number of prints to ninety-six and in 1838 the project was abandoned all together.
Turner first visited the historic town of Knaresborough in 1797, when he took the opportunity to sketch the details of the ruined castle and parts of the town in his North of England Sketchbook.4 He was to return again in the late summer of 1816, while staying with his patron Walter Fawkes at Farnley Hall. On that occasion he recorded further impressions of the town’s principal monuments in his Yorkshire No.1 and Yorkshire No.3 sketchbooks, and it was these drawings in particular, that he was to consult for the present work.5
In Knaresborough Turner demonstrates the technical mastery that he had achieved by the middle of the 1820s. He used a sponge or a cloth to draw out the colour from the paper to create the delicate cliff-top paths, highlights in the trees and reflections on the tiled roofs. In other areas, such as the fine river mist and chimney smoke, he produced mesmerizingly subtle effects by scratching the surface of the paper. Above all, his sense of colour is exquisite and the refined combination of pinks, yellows, greens and blues have been particularly singled out by the Turner scholar Eric Shanes. 6
This work has a long and illustrious history. Perhaps its most celebrated owner was Hugh Munro of Novar who, during the 1830s, was to become one of Turner’s most important and influential patrons. The pair were also great friends and it was Munro who financed the artist’s journey to Venice in 1833 and who travelled with him in 1836 through France, Switzerland and Italy. In all, Munro owned over a hundred watercolours by Turner. In 1854, these were studied by the art historian, Dr Waagen, who described the collection as 'a perfect treasury.'7 In 1937 the work was acquired by Mabel Deakin, whose collection would also include the Rigi at Dawn (see lot 360) and Jerusalem (see lot 359). She was an accomplished sculptress who regularly exhibited at the Manchester Academy of Arts and whose family ran a highly successful textiles firm in Bolton, Lancashire. Each of these works have remained in the possession of her descendants until today. We would like to thank Ian Warrell for his help when cataloguing this work.
1. E. Shanes, lit. op. cit., p. 13
2. E. Shanes, lit. op. cit., p. 16
4. Turner Bequest, Tate, Britain XXXIV
5. Turner Bequest, Tate, Britain CXLIV 50-58 & CXLVI 31-2
6. E. Shanes, lit. op. cit., p. 181
7. G.F. Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, 3 vols., London 1854, vol. II, p. 141
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