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J.M.W. Turner

4 of 43 portraits of J.M.W. Turner

Regency Portraits Catalogue

J.M.W. Turner

by Charles West Cope
circa 1828
6 1/4 in. x 5 1/8 in. (159 mm x 130 mm)
NPG 2943

This portraitback to top

Sir Arthur Cope described this as 'a little oil sketch painted by my father … when he was a student, of Turner at work on a picture of his own, in one of the empty rooms of the RA Schools with some of the porters or sweepers looking on. He used to do this when he was a "Visitor" in the Schools. Being a bit of a pincher, he did not wish to forgoe [sic] the fees that were then paid for the teaching Visitors gave to the students, but spent most of his time there in the manner depicted ...' (letter of 26 March 1938 in NPG archive). C. W. Cope was a student at the RA Schools in 1828 but, although he has taken some licence with its shape, Turner's picture on the easel resembles Regulus now in the Tate Gallery. Regulus was painted in Rome in 1828 and reworked at the British Institution in 1837 so it may be that Sir Arthur's recollection of his father's work was confused and it was really painted nine years later in the British Institution and at the same time as Gilbert's drawing, NPG 5566. A parody of Cope's sketch, by the Norwegian artist Thomas Fearnley who was in London 1835-9, shows the sunlight in Turner's picture brilliant enough to illuminate its surroundings and cast shadows from the admiring spectators (Magazine of Art, 1904, pp 272-4 and 'The Romantic Movement', Tate Gallery, 1959 (173) and plate 97).

Physical descriptionback to top

Whole-length standing on a bench painting a picture; black hat, black coat, red earthenware varnish jar and paint-rags to left; onlookers also in black to right.

Provenanceback to top

The artist and given by his son, Sir Arthur Cope RA, in 1938.

Exhibitionsback to top

'Artists at Work', NPG Loan Exhibition, 1981-2 (9).


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.

View all known portraits for Charles West Cope

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