Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 - 1851)
- Grouse Shooting on Beamsley Beacon
- probably late 1816
- Watercolour with gum varnish on paper
- Image size: 27.9 x 39.5 cm
- Signature: 'JMW Turner RA Pp.'
- 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 P651, was probably painted in late 1816. The subject has been identified as a shooting party on Beamsley Beacon, near Bolton Abbey in North Yorkshire, which took place on 12 August 1816. It was attended by Turner, Walter Fawkes and Fawkes’s brother, Richard (who was married to William Pilkington’s sister). The mounted figure has been identified as Walter Fawkes and the second figure from the right as Turner. The following day was marked by tragedy: Richard Fawkes was wounded in an accident and died shortly afterwards.
The picture is signed with ‘pp’ following the artist’s name, a detail which refers to Turner’s position as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy. It 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.