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J.M.W. Turner. 1775-1851.

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Crypt of Kirkstall Abbey. c. 1806-07. Published by J.M.W. Turner, 11 February 1812. Etching. aquatint and mezzotint. Finberg 39.iv/iv. Series: Liber Studiorum. Image: 7 1/16 x 10 7/16; plate: 8 1/4 x 11 1/2; sheet: 10 7/16 x 15 3/4. Drawn, etched and engraved (mezzotinted) by J.M.W Turner. A fine impression printed in sepia ink, on cream wove paper with full margins. One of eleven prints from the series that totally by Turner's hand. Signed with the artist's name in the plate. $2,000.

It is one of eleven published Liber subjects in Turner's 'Architectural' category, as denoted by the letter 'A' above the image.

"Kirkstall Abbey, founded by the Cistercians in 1152, lies by the river Aire three miles west of the centre of Leeds. After the Reformation it fell into decay, and many of the buildings were put to agricultural use; there was a campaign of restoration in the late nineteenth century after the site passed to the ownership of the city,1 but the dormitory undercroft (rather than 'crypt' or 'refectory') shown in Turner's Liber Studiorum design had collapsed in 1825. Turner visited the site on his tour of the North of England in 1797. Three other Liber designs were based on drawings from the same tour: Holy Island Cathedral, Dunstanborough Castle and Norham Castle on the Tweed (see Tate D08115, D08118, D08158; Turner Bequest CXVI N, Q, CXVIII D).

The present work is fundamentally derived from a pencil drawing (with the cows and distant landscape touched with watercolour) in the North of England sketchbook (Tate D00916; Turner Bequest XXXIV 10a), though as the lettering of the Liber engraving indicates, it is nominally based on a larger watercolour, Refectory of Kirkstall Abbey, Yorkshire, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1798 (Sir John Soane's Museum, London), which had been purchased for Sloane's collection in 1804. The latter is a proportionately wider composition, extending a little further to the right, and with other differences in lighting and detail -- in particular, the cattle were rearranged as compared with the original sketch. In the present design, Turner freely rearranged the group and increased their size in relation to the pillar and corbel, effectively diminishing the scale of the architecture, but in the Liber print he reduced their prominence once more. Stopford Brooke admired the virtuoso effects of luminosity in the design, as "diffused light comes in on the right also through the windows, and it is with delightful skill that Turner has rendered the effect of this double light playing through the shadowy place."

For the full discussion by David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, please visit Tate.

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