Graphite on buff paper
‘Hales Abbey, Gloucestershire’ initialled, inscribed and dated 1837 bottom left
Image size: 8 x 13 1/2 inches (20 x 34.5 cm)
18th Century Hogarth frame and wash line mount
Obtained in 1953 from the private collection of the art dealer Alister Matthews. From the early 1950s to the 1970s Matthews operated as a dealer in prints, drawings, rare books and manuscripts.
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In this drawing Turner of Oxford depicts the ruins of Hailes Abbey. Hailes Abbey is a 13th century Cistercian abbey situated on the Cotswold Way. The abbey was founded in 1246 by Richard of Cornwall, the younger brother of King Henry III of England. The abbey was closed, looted and partially destroyed in 1539 when Henry VIII enforced the Dissolution of the monasteries.
Turner captures this place that was once the centre of monastic life, drawing the tranquil ruins of the cloisters. With confident delineate markings Turner conveys these beautiful ruins that sit nestled in the plush Cotswold landscape. His work is clearly distinguished from his better known namesake, while J M W Turner presented the natural world in all of its dramatic variety, Turner of Oxford captured the intense stillness.
From a young age Turner showed a capacity and contrivance of a veteran landscape painter to whom nature has become familiar. For most of his life he lived in Oxford and subsequently Oxfordshire and the surrounding counties provided Turner with many of his subjects. A good number of Turner’s drawings and paintings were created ‘on the spot’ or ‘drawn from nature’. This drawing was almost certainly drawn en plein air and as a result, whilst the marks remain assured the drawing is also brilliantly free. Turner was very often intent on depicting the effects of weather and season in his work.
Even here, in this delicate sketch, the bright midday sun of a British summer is conveyed through Turner’s selective placement of deep, but short, shadows.
William Turner (29 November 1789 – 7 August 1862) was an English painter who specialised in watercolour landscapes. He is often known as William Turner of Oxford or just Turner of Oxford to distinguish him from his contemporary, J. M. W. Turner (known as William). Many of Turner’s paintings depicted the countryside around Oxford. One of his best known pictures is a view of the city of Oxford from Hinksey Hill.
Turner was born at Black Bourton, Oxfordshire. He was the eldest of three children, and had two younger sisters. His father died in 1791, and he was raised during this early part of his life by his mother. In 1803, he went to live with his uncle, also called William Turner. Initially they lived in Burford but in 1804 moved to the manor house at Shipton-on-Cherwell.
Because of his interest in drawing, Turner joined John Varley in London. In 1807, he had his first exhibition at the Royal Academy. He was elected as a full member of the Royal Watercolour Society in 1808 and for the rest of his life participated in their yearly exhibitions.
In 1810, Turner returned to Oxfordshire. He lived in Woodstock until 1811. After that he lived in and around Oxford. In 1824 Turner married Elizabeth Ilott at Shipton-on-Cherwell and lived at London Road, St Clement’s. From 1833 onwards, he lived at 16 St John Street in central Oxford.
In 1831, the parish church at Shipton-on-Cherwell was demolished and a Georgian Gothic Revival church designed in a Decorated Gothic style by William Turner was built in its place.
Turner died at his home in St John Street, Oxford in 1862. A blue plaque marks the house where he lived. William and his wife are buried in Holy Cross parish churchyard at Shipton-on-Cherwell. In 1896 a memorial chancel screen was installed in the church, with a brass plaque reading “Erected in memory of William Turner of Oxford, Water Colour Painter and architect of this church.”
In 1898, the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford held a retrospective exhibition of his work. Some of his paintings are still on permanent display at the museum. In 1984, the Oxfordshire County Council presented his work in an exhibition at the Oxfordshire County Museum in Woodstock. His paintings are also held in national and international collections, for example at the Tate Gallery (London, UK), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City, US) and the Dunedin Public Art Gallery (New Zealand).