Explorations in the footsteps of Turner, Cotman and Ruskin with Professor David Hill
Professor David Hill can be contacted at:-
DEAR DAVID, This is a wonderful blog. I miss you and our Turner-trekking days! I am so happy to have discovered this blog, just some minutes this afternoon after I finished painting a watercolor version of the 1824 view of the Moselle from the Pallien with the Roman bridge in the distance. A subject so dear to my heart because this was probably NOT the first time he used softcover sketchbooks– as you suggested (back in the days I was living in England) that was on the Rhine– in order to paint color studies in bodycolor and watercolor on grey washed paper while on a continental tour. One of your 2006 photographs was taken on my birthday, April 21st, just as when we were visiting the city of York together on my birthday and cannons were shot (because ERII has the same birthday coincidentally). I hope you are well– you certainly seem busy. Will e-mail you.
Your friend as ever,
Mary Tussey Morrell
Dear Professor Hill,
I have a painting attributed to Cotman, A view of the thames and Old Westminster bridge. With a part of a letter written in the 1930s pasted to the back explaining that the owner had bought it from Cotman’s Grandson of The Minories, over 30 years previously. Would you be able to help confirm or deny the attribution? My Grandfather bought the painting during the 1930s.
Dear Mr Hurman
Thank you for your interest in my opinion. You are welcome to send an image of the work to firstname.lastname@example.org. I do charge a per diem for any research that you might commission, but I only take on attribution projects that have a decent chance of succeeding. I will know straight away from seeing an image.
All best wishes
Dear Mr Hill,
after the opening and the very positive resonance of the exhibition “I wandered lonely as a cloud…Traces of Turner” on Sunday 30th at the Museum SANKTURBANHOF in Sursee, Switzerland, it is about time to pay my reverence to you, Mr Hill, since your book “In Turner’s Footsteps. Through the hills and dales of northern England” was a guiding source for the body of work I created for this exhibition.
My name is Monika Müller, I am an artist living and working in Lucerne, Switzerland. I predominantly work in the media of drawing and the notion of landscape under various aspects has been the main focal point of my work for more than a decade.
Years ago I saw your book in the window of a second-hand bookshop. Since I had to wait for the bus to arrive, it caught my eye and I went in and bought it. Once in a while I opened its pages, enthralled by Turner’s sketchbook drawings and watercolor studies of places with names so wondrously unfamiliar like Malham Tarn and Kilnsey Cragg.
As much as I would have liked to set out on this journey immediately, I was constantly being busy with other projects and residencies. So, I had to postpone the plan to follow Turner’s footsteps in Northern England for several times.
Already in the summer of 2011 I had likewise traced Caspar David Friedrich’s places and sights as part of a residency with the Pfeiffer Mobil (http://www.pfeifermobil.ch/de/portfolio-items/monika-mueller-bildende-kuenstlerin/)
to tour the island of Rügen, in Northern Germany. Based on the story that Friedrich had planned an “Ansichtenwerk of Rügen” of 37 watercolours that got lost (save of 4), my plan was to adapt my own viewing of the territory and publish the 37 Ansichten in form of a facsimile book. I intended to pay tribute to the revered artist and, almost 200 years later, to “accomplish” the “Ansichtenwerk” that Friedrich himself did not get to.
This practice and the series of drawings that came out of it, became a pivotal work for me, so that I knew I wanted to follow up with a similar project one day. Not knowing where and when, your book eventually led me to this next endeavour.
The city of Lucerne (which I know you have visited repeated times) houses a medium sized, yet fine Museum of Art in the acclaimed Jean Nouvel Building of the KKL. With the exhibition Turner. The Sea and the Alps the Kunstmuseum Luzern is just now celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Kunstgesellschaft Luzern, the supporting association of the Kunstmuseum Luzern. It opened last Friday and is promised to become an exhibition highlight, not only for our small Central Switzerland city but nationwide. (www.kunstmuseumluzern.ch/en/).
Fanni Fetzer, the director of the museum invited institutions and galleries in the region to accompany “Turner. The Sea and the Alps” exhibition with related topics and projects. So when Bettina Staub, curator at the Museum Sankturbanhof, invited me for a show revolving around landscape, light and perception in May of 2018, I was in the midst of preparations for my research tour to the Yorkshire Dales.
Your book became my constant guide throughout the whole tour, providing me with the entire background story of Turner’s 1816 Tour of Yorkshire, giving me insights and outlooks all along.
Due to the timeframe I had, I decided to follow the first leg of his tour, that of the three valleys of the Yorkshire Dales. On eleven consecutive days (July 8th through July 20th 2018) I wandered along Turner’s destinations: The Strid, Bolton Abbey, Barden Tower / Gordale Scar, Great Close Knot, Malham Tarn, Malham Cove (probably my favorite tour), all of the Aysgarth Falls, Hardraw Force, Mill Gill and West Burton Falls, Semer Water and Kilnsey Cragg but also in search of my own very personal trails, going up Conistone Dib following the River Ure between Hardraw and Hawes, finding the end of the Swaledale Valley in Keld or walking and picknicking on the vast moors of the Buttertubs Pass or near Reeth.
I was following Turner‘s paths breathlessly to take in as much as possible, sketching, photographing, looking, always looking and remembering – intent on “collecting material” to work from for the upcoming exhibition in Sursee as Turner once did for the Longman project. The determined nature of my tour forced me to constantly check my moods, ignore my exhaustion and look for motives.
As I should find out in the half year that followed and in which I was working on my drawings in the studio, I remembered every step I took.
As you wrote in your book (p 28):” The impression that one forms in the mind of a site is a cumulative one, the sum total of one’s knowledge of the place, built up by walking about it and taking into account one’s particular interest in the light on the water, or the rocks, or the trees, or the place one ate one’s sandwiches, or dived from the moss-covered rocks for a swim.”
The experience could not be expressed more accurately and such is the truth I found while I was working on the series of drawings called “Ways of Turner”. Drawing on memory, on the atmosphere I had experienced, on quick sketches and photographs I had taken and on the very nature of the process of drawing itself, they are the product of an experience, I dare say, I have shared I still share with William Turner.
So, in this form and in this moment I wanted to reach out to you, dear Mr. Hill, to express my gratitude and appreciation for all the knowledge and insights I acquired through reading your book – and only recently having discovered and visited your sublimesite-website.
With warm thanks and very kind regards, Monika Müller
Dear Prof Hill
I went today to the Turner Northern Exposure exhibtion in Berwick which was excellent
Do you happen to know if the exhibits will change slightly in each location to bring in some of the local area. I am looking forward to the Harrogate exhibition and wonder whether they will produce any of Turner’s sketches of Plumpton Rocks, which would be very appropriate.
I fortunate enough to own Plumpton Rocks and I was slightly disappointed no mention was made of his time there in 1797 0r 1816
Glad you enjoyed Northern Exposure at Berwick. The exhibition moves next to Tullie House, Carlisle, opening on Saturday 19 October. After that it moves to its final venue at the Mercer Harrogate, opening on 18 January. The exhibition has a core of colour studies from the Tate, and each venue has added a few things that are particularly appropriate to its area. So Carlisle has a few splendid Cumbrian subjects. Harrogate will have some special Yorkshire subjects, including two subjects – St Agatha’s Abbey, Easby, and Richmond Yorkshire, specially lent by the British Museum.
No Plompton subjects at Harrogate, sadly, but all the sketches are on line at https://www.tate.org.uk/search?q=plompton
and Turner’s two famous oils of Plompton Rocks are on permanent display in the Saloon at Harewood House. One of the rare instances of Turner’s paintings surviving in the very setting for which they were painted.
Plompton Rocks is a very special place! I first went there to see Turner’s views in the mid 1970s when a student and was astonished at how Turner gets the character of the place.
Many thanks for sharing your connection.
Dear Professor Hill
I note you have some knowledge of the Twopenny family from Woodstock Nr Sittingbourne.
I understand that Shell purchased the estate in the 1940s, some 332 acres!
I’m trying to find any details as to the original boundary and wondered if you might know, or where I could find out?
Thanks for your interesting question. I don’t know the answer, I’m afraid, though I assume that the deeds of sale would have defined the boundaries of the property. Presumably Shell Energy would have access to the documents. The Land Registry would presumably have copies to title, but I’ve never made enquiries of them myself.
I would freely confess most of what I say about Woodstock and the Twopenys is received information. I have been helped greatly by several local experts. Have you tried the good folk at Kent Record Office in Maidstone?
I would be interested to learn more about your interest, and how you get on in your research!
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