404
404
Joseph Mallord William Turner, R.A.
KIRKBY LONSDALE CHURCHYARD, WESTMORLAND
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LOT SOLD. 399,000 GBP
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404
Joseph Mallord William Turner, R.A.
KIRKBY LONSDALE CHURCHYARD, WESTMORLAND
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
200,000300,000
LOT SOLD. 399,000 GBP
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Details & Cataloguing

Old Master & British Works on Paper

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Joseph Mallord William Turner, R.A.
LONDON 1775 - 1851
KIRKBY LONSDALE CHURCHYARD, WESTMORLAND
Watercolour over pencil, heightened with bodycolour and with scratching out
292 by 422 mm.
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Provenance

Commissioned by Longman & Co., 1818;
Cosmo Orme (1780-1859),
his sale, London, Christie's, 7 March 1884, lot 43, bt. Agnew's,
with Agnew's, London;
Humphrey Roberts (1819-1907),
his sale, London, Christie's, 23 May 1908, lot 286, bt. Agnew's,
with Agnew's, London;
Sir Donald Currie (1825-1909),
by family descent until;
sale, London, Bonhams, 25 January 2012, lot 12

Exhibited

London, Burlington House, Exhibition of Deceased Masters of the British School; including a collection of Water-Colour Drawings by Joseph M.W. Turner, R.A., 1887, no. 54;
London, Royal Academy / Tate Gallery, Turner 1775-1851, 1974-5, no. 180;
York, City of York Art Gallery, Turner in Yorkshire, 1980, no. 122;
Burnley, Towneley Hall Art Gallery, Turner and Dr Whitaker, 1982, nos. 63 / 64;
London, Royal Academy, Turner: The Great Watercolours, 2000-2001, no. 33

Literature

J. Ruskin, Modern Painters, I (1843; Works, III, pp. 421, 587-7); Modern Painters, IV (1856; Works, VI, pp. 26, 381); Sesame and Lilies (1864; Works, XVIII, p. 98); Fors Clavigera (1875; Works, XXVIII, p. 299); The Storm Cloud of the Nineteenth Century (11 March 1884; Works, XXXIV p. 45); Letters (Works, XXXVII, p. 476, 478);
W. Thornbury, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., London 1862, vol. I, pp. 236, 253;
Sir W. Armstrong, Turner,  London 1902, p. 260;
W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., London 1908, vol. I, no. 186;
A. Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, p. 366, no. 578;
D. Hill, In Turner's Footsteps. Through the hills and dales of Northern England, London 1984, pp. 92-4, 108, pl. 19;
J. Gage, J.M.W. Turner: 'A Wonderful Range of Mind', Yale 1987, pp. 83-4, fig. 113;
E. Shanes, Turner's England 1810-38, London 1990, p. 95, no. 70

Engraved:

by Charles Heath for Whitaker's, History of Richmondshire, 1821  

Catalogue Note

This celebrated watercolour dates to 1818 and depicts one of the great ‘views’ in the north of England: the Lune Valley from Kirkby Lonsdale, a village on the south-eastern edges of the Lake District.  This scenery had long been admired, John Ruskin considered it to be the ‘loveliest’ in England, while William Wordsworth, in his 1810 Guide to the Lakes, made a point of particularly recommending the viewpoint shown here, urging his readers to ‘by no means omit looking at the Vale of Lune from the Churchyard.’ 

As Wordsworth suggested, Turner looks north from the village churchyard and out into the tranquil expanse beyond. Leaning upon the full range of his painterly techniques, as well as employing a highly sophisticated composition, he encourages the viewer to follow the river Lune deep into the picture plane. The river itself shimmers in the early morning light, gliding - sometimes at speed, sometimes gently - past green fields and tall trees that appear almost ghostly, shrouded in a fine silvery mist. In the distance, again conceived with a mesmerizing combination of sunlight, shadow, mist and cloud, the wooded slopes of Barbon Fell rise up to meet the sky.

In a typical play on the senses, Turner deliberately juxtaposes the almost otherworldly peace of the background with a foreground filled with the sounds and activities of man. On the left stands the pink-stoned village school and some way down the slope, a woman sets out her washing to dry in the sun. In the churchyard itself, a group of schoolboys, who should perhaps be heading for the classroom, instead fool around. While one throws a stone at a make-shift target that has been set up on a nearby tombstone, another has stolen a third's satchel, holding it high above his head. Rather than giving in, the satchel’s true owner retaliates by stealing his tormenter’s hat. All these fun and games are watched by a fourth boy, who leans nonchalantly against a tree.   

Turner painted this watercolour in connection with his efforts to provide illustrations, on behalf of the publishers Longman & Co., for Dr Thomas Dunham Whitaker’s grandiose book a General History of the County of York. In May 1816, Joseph Farington, R.A. excitedly recorded in his diary that ‘Turner told me that he had made an engagement to make 120 drawings, views of various kinds in Yorkshire, for a History of Yorkshire, for which he was to have 3,000 guineas.’ 

Later that summer, Turner travelled north to stay with his friend and patron Walter Fawkes of Farnley Hall. From there, he carried out an extensive tour of the region, all the while searching out significant subjects and making careful pencil drawings in his notebooks. He arrived at Kirkby Lonsdale on 9th August and, using both his Yorkshire 2 and Yorkshire 5 sketchbooks, he recorded the village and its magnificent view from several angles.1 Once back in London, Turner’s ideas for the present watercolour began to take shape. He painted not one, but two ‘colour beginnings’ which are now held at Tate Britain and which show him experimenting with the basic structure of the composition.2

This lot, the ‘finished’ watercolour, was engraved by Charles Heath and published in 1821 in the History of Richmondshire volume of Whitaker’s book. Although Turner had originally been asked to paint 120 landscapes, the publishers quickly found that they had underestimated their costs and they were forced to significantly reduce the scale of project. Eventually only twenty engravings based on Turner’s views were issued and, in 1823, the venture was brought to a hasty close.

In the hope of recouping some of their losses, Longman & Co. began to sell Turner’s watercolours. Kirkby Lonsdale Churchyard was acquired by one of the firm’s partners, the Scot, Cosmo Orme. In total, he bought four watercolours from the series and when, in 1884, his collection was sold at Christie’s, the present work was acquired by Agnew’s on behalf of the financier Humphry Roberts. He, himself, formed a prestigious collection that not only included twelve watercolours by Turner but also exceptional works by, amongst others, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Constable and Bonington.

Perhaps Kirkby Lonsdale Churchyard’s most celebrated owner was Sir Donald Curry, who acquired the picture at Humphry’s executor’s sale in 1908 and within whose family it was to remain for 104 years. Born the son of a barber from Greenock, near Glasgow, Curry became one of the most remarkable businessmen of his day. He was passionate about Turner and it is recorded that, over his lifetime, he acquired fourteen of his oil paintings, and no fewer than fifty-seven watercolours.

Aside from its great beauty, its distinguished provenance and its long exhibition history, Turner’s Kirkby Lonsdale Churchyard is now also notable for being one of only four works from the group of twenty engraved Richmondshire watercolours to remain in private hands. Discounting an untraced view of Richmond, all the others are now in museum collections, predominantly in Britain, but also as far afield as America and Japan. Its inclusion in this sale therefore undoubtedly provides collectors with a rare opportunity.

We are very grateful to Ian Warrell for this help with cataloguing this work.

1. Tate, Turner Bequest: CXLVVIII 3 and CXLVVIII 3a. 
2. Tate, Turner Bequest: D17187 TB CXCVI W and D17186 (TB CXCVI V)

Old Master & British Works on Paper

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