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Regency Portraits Catalogue

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), Landscape painter

Chapter XXXV of Thornbury's Life of Turner, 1862 and 1877 deals vividly with the portraits of Turner but is as anecdotal and unreliable as the rest of the book. Later and more useful surveys are by Sir Lionel Cust in The Magazine of Art, XVIII, 1895 and by Cosmo Monkhouse in Scribner's Magazine, July 1896. A light glance by Adrian Bury appears in Country Life, 13 October 1955. The Indianapolis Museum and Tate Gallery self-portraits are covered in Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, Paintings of J. M. W. Turner, 1977. A check list by R. J. B. Walker was published in Turner Studies, 1983, vol.3, no.1, pp 21-32 and fully illustrated.
No major portraits of Turner are known. Lawrence, Chantrey, Nollekens, Beechey, Owen, Phillips, Raeburn and Hayter, among artists of the Regency period, have left no record of having made even sketches of him, no doubt from deference to his known distrust of self-exposure to his fellow artists. 'It will do my drawings an injury' he is reputed to have said. Apart from the early self-portraits, some dubious themselves, the only sitting he is known to have given is that to George Dance in 1800 - the result a soigné figure in marked contrast to the slovenly rag-bag of the surreptitious sketches by students and Academicians and the occasional posthumous drawings made from recollection, though Cornelius Varley's revealing drawing made with his Patent Graphic Telescope could scarcely have been accomplished without a voluntary sitting. Turner lived well into the age of photography and is known to have visited Mayall's studio frequently but no certain photographic portrait of him is known. The tragic death-mask, taken by Woolner in the degradation of senility, is the final image of England's greatest landscape-painter.
This list closes with an account of a number of spurious portraits frequently recurring on the market or safely housed in the National Collections but attended in the past with enough publicity to warrant a brief review here.

c.1791
Watercolour self-portrait (NPG 1314).

c.1793
Oil self-portrait in Indianapolis Museum of Art; for details see Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, Paintings of J. M. W. Turner, 1977, pp 17-18 and reproduced in colour on cover of Turner Studies, 1983.

1796-9
Four pencil drawings from Dr Thomas Monro's Album in Pantzer Collection, Indianapolis Museum.

c.1798
Oil self-portrait in Tate Gallery (458).

c.1799
Pencil drawing by Charles Turner in British Museum, probably done in the year of JMWT's election as ARA (Laurence Binyon, Catalogue of Drawings by British Artists … in the British Museum, IV, p 209).

1800
Chalk drawing by George Dance in the RA library, signed and dated 31 March 1800; the only portrait for which Turner is known to have given a sitting, exhibited RA 1800 (263) and 'Treasures of the Royal Academy', RA, 1963 (94).

c.1800
Cosmo Monkhouse ('Some Portraits of J. M. W. Turner' in Scribner's Magazine, 1896, p 89) records 'an unfinished sea-piece in the possession of Sir J. C. Robinson … contains an unmistakeable likeness of himself'.

1806
Etching (whole-length caricature) by J. T. Allen '... taken from life when the Painter was staying at Mr Starkie's at Huntroyde, Cy Lancashire' (inscribed copy in NPG Reference Collection).

1807-9
Pencil drawing by Charles Turner in British Museum (Laurence Binyon, Catalogue of Drawings by British Artists … in the British Museum, IV, p 209), half-length seated facing inscribed 'A Sweet Temper', reproduced John Gage, Collected Correspondence of J. M. W. Turner, 1980, frontispiece.

1810
Pencil drawing by Thomas Cooley (NPG 4913a).

1812
Pencil drawing by John Linnell in Tate Gallery (T.3117), Turner's eyes drawn at a lecture, reproduced John Gage, Collected Correspondence of J. M. W. Turner, 1980, plate II.

c.1813
Watercolour drawing in Wallace Collection entitled 'Grouse-Shooting'; Turner is said to be one of the foreground figures.

c.1815
Pencil drawing by Edward Bird in British Museum, exhibited 'Portrait Drawings', 1974 (188).

Pencil drawing by Cornelius Varley in Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield, made with Varley's invention the Graphic Telescope; sometimes considered as doubtfully Turner but exhibited as authentic in 'The Romantic Movement', Tate Gallery, 1959 (462) and thought possibly to be as late as the early 1820s (Michael Pidgley, 'Varley and the Graphic Telescope' in Burlington Magazine, November 1972, p 782).

1816
Pencil drawings by C. R. Leslie (see NPG 4084).

c.1820-5
Pencil and wash drawing by Hawkesworth Fawkes in private collection Yorkshire and copy in Pantzer Collection Indianapolis, whole-length caricature.

c.1820
Stipple engraving by J. B. Hunt 'from an Original Sketch', published in Bailey's Magazine, 1857.

1825-30
Pencil drawing by unknown artist, in a group with J. T. Smith sketching an old woman, reproduced Nollekens and his Times, ed. W. Whitten, 1920, I, p 294, identity doubtful.

1827
Watercolour drawing attributed to Richard Dighton in V&A Museum (E.226. 1946), whole-length silhouette signed and dated 1827.

1828
Ink drawing by Edward Bell in British Museum (Laurence Binyon, Catalogue of Drawings by British Artists … in the British Museum, p 96).

1828 or 1837
Oil sketch by C. W. Cope (NPG 2943).

1830-2
Watercolour drawing by J. T. Smith in British Museum (Laurence Binyon, Catalogue of Drawings by British Artists … in the British Museum, IV, p 110). Smith is said to have used this drawing to point out to the Trustees the vulnerability of drawings in general and the Print Room, with stricter surveillance, was formed accordingly. Another copy with mountain background, offered to NPG in 1957, is in the Pantzer Collection, Indianapolis. An oil attributed to J. T. Smith in the Tate Gallery (2728) shows Turner at an easel painting a sailing boat in a storm, but this seems to be a variation of the well-known drawing by Sir John Gilbert (see below).

c.1830
Ink drawing by John Jackson in Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge (PD 13-1975).

1831
Turner appears as a spectator in George Jones's oil 'The Opening of London Bridge' in Sir John Soane's Museum.

1837
Drawing by Sir John Gilbert (NPG 5566).

1838
Oil by John Linnell painted from recollection (NPG L157 [NPG 6344]).

Silhouette 'taken on board SS Canterbury 23 Sept 1838', Tate Gallery, British School (2730).

1840s
Oil sketches by Landseer in British Museum (Green Redleaf Scrapbook); two very slight whole-length standing figures sketched rapidly on Landseer's palette and later transferred to paper, reproduced R. J. B. Walker, 'The Portraits of J. M. W. Turner: a Check-list' in Turner Studies, 1983, vol.3, nos.40-1.

c.1840
Silhouette by John Ruskin in a private collection Southampton, whole-length inscribed: J M W Turner RA as he was dressed for a visit to the Royal Academy.

1841
Chalk and watercolour drawing by Charles Turner in British Museum (Laurence Binyon, Catalogue of Drawings by British Artists … in the British Museum, IV, p 209), see NPG 1182.

1844
Pencil drawing by Charles Martin (NPG 1483).

1845-9
Drawing by Count D'Orsay known from a lithograph published by Hogarth, 1 January 1851, whole-length stirring his tea in a grand drawing-room possibly in Lady Blessington's or Elhanan Bicknell's house; a watercolour drawing, possibly the original, is at Port Sunlight. D'Orsay also etched a head and shoulders profile. An example of the lithograph in the NPG is annotated, perhaps by W. G. Rawlinson: From a drawing by Count D'Orsay (said to have been touched by Landseer).

1846
Cartoon by Richard Doyle in the NPG Reference Collection, annotated Almanac of the Month 1846, whole-length painting a picture with a large mop and bucket of yellow wash, exhibited Turner Exhibition New York 1966.

c.1846
Oil by William Parrott in Ruskin Collection, Reading University, whole-length on Varnishing Day, exhibited (with bibliography) in 'Ruskin and his Circle', Arts Council, 1964 (92).

1847-9
Photograph by Mayall in private collection London (copy in NPG). Turner's visits to Mayall's studio in Regent Street were so frequent that 'an Abernethy chair was habitually placed for him ... I took several admirable daguerreotype portraits of him, one in the act of reading, a position rather favourable to him on account of his weak eyes and their being rather bloodshot ...' (Walter Thornbury, Life of Turner, 1877, p 349 and Jack Lindsay, J. M. W. Turner: a critical biography, 1966, pp 208-10).

1847
Pencil drawing by C. H. Lear (NPG 1456(25)).

1850-1
Three ink drawings by Sir John Millais, inscribed Varnishing Morning at the Royal Academy 1850 with the Maas Gallery 1983; Turner/by J. E. Millais/1851 whole-length standing in profile to left in top-hat, with Morton Morris & Co in 1983; and Profile of Turner. Turner & Sir Francis Grant PRA by J. E. Millais/1851 with Thomas Agnew & Sons in 1983.

c.1850
Pencil and watercolour drawing by John Phillip (NPG 1717).

Oil by Frederick Goodall with Thomas Agnew & Sons in 1980, half-length profile to left.

Undated
Drawing by Alfred Edward Chalon, perhaps the watercolour sketch at Christie's (Chalon sale) 13 March 1861 (358) but untraced since; it was mentioned by Thornbury as having 'rather a Jewish look, little staring grey eyes, arched astonished eyebrows, and a very scarlet face' (Walter Thornbury, Life of Turner, 1862, p 395).

Medallion on canvas by Dyce at Christie's (Dyce sale) 5 May 1865 (59), bought Agnew.

Pencil drawing by W. H. Hunt, 'Sketch in a Steamboat', Christie's 22 March 1966 (18) bought Maas Gallery and with Cyril Fry in 1982.

Drawing by Mulready mentioned by Thornbury (Walter Thornbury, Life of Turner, 1862, p 395) and suggested by Cust to be possibly the British Museum drawing 'A Sweet Temper' attributed to Charles Turner (Laurence Binyon, Catalogue of Drawings by British Artists … in the British Museum, IV, p 209).

4 drawings by George Richmond at Christie's (Richmond sale) 29 April 1877 (117-18).

Posthumous
1851
Death-mask probably by Thomas Woolner (NPG 1664).

Statue by P. MacDowell in St Paul's Cathedral.

c.1852
Oil by George Jones, 'Turner lying in state in his gallery, 29 December 1851', in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

1858
Statue by E. H. Baily engraved for The Art Journal, 1858, p 340 but never executed.

1859
Pencil drawing by Maclise, 'Design for the Turner Medal', in the RA library; a gold medal was made by L. C. Wyon from this drawing, see 'Daniel Maclise', NPG Exhibition, 1972 (125); a bronze copy is in the NPG.

c.1876
Relief figure by Armstead on the podium of the Albert Memorial.

c.1884
Pencil drawing by Sir William Blake Richmond in NPG Reference Collection, a slight caricature signed with initials: WBR and inscribed on the mount by W. G. Rawlinson: Portrait of Turner drawn for me from memory by W. B. Richmond, RA about 1884. It was secured from Rawlinson's estate by George Suckling and bought from him in 1972.

1890-9
Stone medallion by Seddon & Fisher on the exterior of the School of Science and Art, Stroud, Gloucestershire.

1935
Statue by William McMillan on the RA staircase; a small bronze cast from a model was at Christie's 30 November 1983 (241).

Doubtful and spurious portraits
Oil by Sir William Allan in Victorian Exhibition 1892 (167) lent by G. B. Simpson, head and shoulders in a large hat.

Oval pencil drawing attributed to George Dance, Sotheby's (Francis Wellesley sale) 28 June 1920 (199) - head and shoulders as a child.

Oval pencil and wash drawing attributed to George Dance, Christie's 14 June 1977 (17) and again 25 April 1978 (76), head and shoulders as a child, dated Augst 4th 1792.

Oil by R. Dighton in British Museum, Christie's 23 October 1953 (21), three-quarter-length seated at easel with maulstick and palette.

Chalk drawing attributed to Harlow formerly with Dr Pocock of Brighton.

Oil attributed to B. R. Haydon, head and shoulders in black coat, red background (sketch in Sir George Scharf’s Trustees’ Sketchbooks, XXXV, 4 and photograph from Boston Museum of Fine Arts).

Oil attributed to Hoppner offered to NPG in 1861 and reproduced by Cust in Magazine of Art, 1895, p 245, head and shoulders as a choirboy.

Pencil and wash drawing inscribed: John Linnell 1827, Sotheby's 20 November 1969 (107).

Oil attributed to Hoppner, 'Turner and his Muse', Christie's 22 March 1929 (48).

Pencil drawing by Maclise in Maclise Portrait Gallery, 1898, p 454, whole-length perched on a high stool.

Oil attributed to John R. Wildman (fl. 1823-39) was exhibited Agnew 'English Life and Landscape 1730-1870' (41) and purported to show Turner and Walter Fawkes at Farnley Hall shortly before 1825; the evidence and provenance were too scanty to carry much conviction.

Oil attributed to Edmund Wildman, signed and dated 1837, was 'at once recognised by Algernon Graves as of Turner' and given in inflated eulogy in Connoisseur, XLII, 1915; but beyond being of an artist of approximately the right age the portrait bore no resemblance to the accepted Turner iconography.

Spurious self-portraits
(1) The Wass portrait; half-length aged about 22, in a green coat, buckskin waistcoat and white stock, exhibited Grosvenor Gallery 1888 and Victorian Exhibition 1892 (183), on both occasions lent by C. W. Wass. Ruskin's statement of 21 April 1875 is given in Works, XIII, p 581 and quoted by Monkhouse in 'Some Portraits of J. M. W. Turner' in Scribner's Magazine, 1896, with reproduction on p 91 - 'The portrait shown to me today by Mr Wass is, I have no doubt, a painting of Turner when young by himself, and is of extreme interest to me, though slighter in work than the one in the National Gallery [ie Tate 458]; for that very reason seeming to give, in all probability, the truest image extant of the man at that time of his life' (signed) 'John Ruskin'. A transcript in Wass's handwriting is in the NPG archive; Wass had also shown it to Ruskin 2 years earlier, 20 June 1873, and received verbal confirmation. It has been suggested that this was the portrait mentioned by Thornbury, on very shaky evidence, as having been painted by Turner for his fiancée. However in spite of the great weight of Ruskin's opinion, both Cust and Monkhouse firmly rejected the Wass portrait on grounds of its incompatibility with the Tate portrait. The Wass portrait was acquired by Colonel William Sidebotham of Hengrave Hall, Bury St Edmunds (deceased 1933) together with Ruskin's letter of authenticity.
(2) The Llewellyn portrait; head and shoulders in a dark green coat, palette and brushes in left hand, red brown clouds, offered to the NPG in June 1866 and declined in spite of an accompanying letter from Ruskin: '… it is unquestionably Turner, unquestionably by himself - and the most interesting portrait of him I have seen yet ....' (copy in the NPG archive). However the Trustees were influenced by the contrary opinion expressed forcibly by both Sir Francis Grant and George Richmond and also by a written statement from John Pye who had examined it at the NPG a few days before the meeting: 'I was personally acquainted with J. M. W. Turner from the year 1810 till his death in 1851; but at no period of that course of years did he, in my opinion, resemble the picture now before me ...' (copy in the NPG archive). It was described minutely by Scharf in 1866 (Sir George Scharf’s Trustees’ Sketchbooks, XI, 9), exhibited Third Exhibition of National Portraits, South Kensington, 1868 (912) lent by Llewellyn, appeared Christie's 3 April 1869 (114) and again 9 July 1881 (76), offered to the National Gallery in 1881 and in November 1894 belonged to Sir Arthur Hayter.
(3) An oil self-portrait was 'unearthed in a Seven Dials store by Mr Kilsby' in 1906 and pronounced by W. P. Frith, then aged 87, to be 'undoubtedly a likeness of Turner whom I knew well'; half-length to left aged about 60 (photograph in NPG archive).



This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: Richard Walker, Regency Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, 1985, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.