J.M.W. TURNER R.A.
Kilnsey Crag and Conistone Bridge in Upper Wharfedale, Yorkshire
His sale Christie’s, 8 July, 1921, lot 17
L. Friedlander by whom bequeathed to D.G Ellis
By family descent
This superb ‘colour beginning’ depicts a bridge with its surrounding countryside in the early morning as the low-lying mist begins to dissipate. Turner’s ability to catch the mood and essence of a scene such as this with broad watercolour washes was unsurpassed and anticipates the Impressionists. It is even more astonishing to learn that this watercolour dates from the mid-1820s.
The term ‘colour beginning’ was coined by the great Turner scholar and biographer A.J Finberg, who owned this watercolour, after he discovered that Turner had written ‘Beginning’ on a watercolour study he had made in 1818 in preparation for the highly finished watercolour Loss of an East Indiaman (Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford). Turner used it to denote an imaginative inception of the creative process by means of a simplified blocking-out of the fundamental representational, expressive, structural, colouristic and tonal elements of a planned watercolour.
The colour beginnings are amongst the most appealing of Turner’s works and the majority of them are in the Turner Bequest at the Tate. They formed the basis of a hugely popular exhibition curated by the Turner scholar Eric Shanes at Tate Britain in 1997.
We are grateful to David Hill for identifying the location as Kilnsey Crag and Conistone Bridge in Upper Wharfedale, Yorkshire.