Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 - 1851)
- Woodcock Shooting on Otley Chevin
- Watercolour and gum varnish on paper
- Image size: 28 x 39.8 cm
- Signature: 'JMW Turner RA / 1813'
- Not on display
- This picture is one of four watercolours by J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) in the Wallace Collection – the only works by the British master in the collection. All four watercolours are landscape views of Yorkshire, painted in the 1810s. The pictures thus belong to a period of British art in which watercolour emerged as a more respected and exhibited medium – tellingly, the Society for Painters of Watercolour had been founded in 1804. Turner had exhibited his first watercolour at the Royal Academy in 1790. He went on to produce nearly 1600 watercolours over the course of his career, an aspect of his work which is particularly celebrated.
Turner had first visited the Yorkshire in 1797 and returned repeatedly throughout his career. A particular connection to Yorkshire was the collector Walter Fawkes, who lived at Farnley Hall near Otley and became an important friend and patron of Turner’s in the 1810s and 20s. From 1808, Farnley Hall became a regular retreat for the artist, particularly in the summer months. This picture, together with the other Turner watercolours in the collection, was not painted for Fawkes, however, but for his brother-in-law Sir William Pilkington of Chevet Hall (near Wakefield), who was also a regular visitor to the house.
The present picture, traditionally paired with P664, shows a view across Otley Chevin, a hill overlooking the town of Otley. A man with a gun is depicted on the left, aiming at a woodcock which flies across the centre of the composition. A second figure can be made out beneath the bird, hiding in the foliage of the hillside and holding a stick in the air. The sportsman is presumably William Pilkington. Turner frequently went shooting with the Fawkes family. The main subject of the painting is arguably the Yorkshire landscape. The composition is pre-empted by a drawing in a sketchbook from 1813 – in fact, this sketchbook is now known as the ‘Woodcock Shooting’ sketchbook, owing to its connection to the present picture.
The picture was bought by the 4th Marquess of Hertford from Elhanan Bicknell, an important patron and collector of British art and a contemporary of Turner’s. The 4th Marquess bought about a third of his collection when it was sold at Christies in 1863. In the context of his collection as a whole, however, the 4th Marquess took only a limited interest in nineteenth-century British art.