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Joseph Mallord William Turner

1775 – 1851

Dumbarton Rock by Joseph Mallord William Turner

Dumbarton Rock   c.1818

  Original etching thought to be by J.M.W. Turner, with mezzotint by Thomas Lupton.
With the artists’ names in the plate.
Ref:  Finberg 75
S 306 x 432 mm; P 222 x 287 mm; I  199 x 268 mm
Rare unpublished etching with mezzotint. Early proof impression printed by Thomas Lupton, prior to the printing of about 50 impressions in 1874.

This engraving was intended for issue in J.M.W.Turner’s Liber Studiorum series; however, Turner abandoned the whole Liber project early in 1819 and this plate remained unpublished.

The Liber Studiorum was the most important and the greatest single product of Turner’s life’s work. J.M.W.Turner worked on this series of etchings with mezzotint and aquatint from about 1806 until 1823 and he intended it to be the summation of his entire artistic œuvre. This monumental publication thus occupied over fifteen years of Turner’s life and was never completed, being abandoned for unknown reasons in 1823. The last published issue of the series was released in 1819, bringing the total number of published plates to 71, of which only 10 were finished by J.M.W. Turner himself.

The Liber Studiorum became, without doubt, the single most influential publication in the history of British Romantic landscape art. Not only were the pictures it contained to have considerable influence on many artists over the following decades, but the publication itself was to provide a model for men like Constable and others to follow.

All of the works in this series were etched by J.M.W. Turner himself, and the majority were based on sketches or paintings he had made, often some years previously. After Turner had completed the etched work this plate, together with 60 other etched plates etched by Turner, was passed to a commercial engraver whom the artist employed to add shading and tone through mezzotint engraving across the surface of the plate. This work leaves the recessed etched lines relatively undisturbed which, therefore, still represent the great artist’s original work.

The copper plate of Dumbarton Rock, was still in the engraver Lupton’s possession when J.M.W.Turner died and only a very few impressions were printed from it after Turner’s death. In 1874 the copper plate was sold at Christie’s among Lupton’s effects. It was bought by a Mrs. Noseda who had about 50 impressions bearing the word ‘Proof’ printed from it on smooth modern paper. This is an earlier impression, printed prior to the Christie’s sale. Printed in warm brown ink on coarse wove paper, it is inscribed in a contemporary hand in pencil “One of Lupton’s Proofs” and variously priced at £5-5-0 and £3-10-0.

With full margins and deckle edge. Minor losses at extreme corners of sheet, otherwise very fine condition.