- Museum number
Winchelsea, Sussex; a line of soldiers marching through hilly country towards a gateway on a hill in the mid-distance, beyond a town with storm clouds passing over. c.1828
Watercolour, touched with bodycolour, with graphite and some scraping-out
- Production date
- 1828 (circa)
Height: 293 millimetres
Width: 425 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Sloan 1998
When Ruskin lent his collection of Turner watercolours and memorabilia to the Fine Art Society in 1878, he wrote notes on them for the catalogue. This scene of tired soldiers approaching their barracks refers back to Turner's memories of his first visit to Winchelsea, during the Napoleonic Wars. It was one of the earliest Ruskin had owned: "My father gave me the drawing for a birthday present, in 1840, and it used to hang in my rooms at Oxford; no mortal would believe, and now I can scarcely understand myself, the quantity of pleasure it gave me. At that time, I loved storm, and dark weather, and soldiers. Now, I want blue sky, pure air, and peace."
This explanation enables us to begin to understand how much influence Ruskin's own feelings about a subject affected his interpretation of Turner's art. However, we can now stand back from Ruskin's very personal injections and even rejection of the artist's motives and see them for what they often were - a reflection of events in Ruskin's own life and his own personal prejudices. This is seldom more clear than in his 1878 notes:
"Turner was always greatly interested, I never could make out why, in the low hill and humble antiquities of Winchelsea. The tower and East gate, though little more, either of them, than heaps of old stone, are yet made each a separate subject in the 'Liber Studiorum' . . . Here, the piece of thundrous light and wild hailstorm among the houses on the hill to the left is entirely grand, and so also the mingling of the shaken trees (all the grace of their foliage torn out of them by the wind) with the wild rain as they melt back into it. But he has missed his mark in the vermilions of the foreground, which fail in distinction of hues between sunlight and shade . . . He is, throughout, ill at ease, both in himself, and about the men and the camp-followers; partly laughing the strange, half-cruel, half-sorrowful laugh that we wonder at, also, so often in Bewick: thinking of the trouble the poor fellows are getting into, drenched utterly, just as they stagger up the hill to their quarters, half dead with heat and thirst, and white with dust."
The engraving of this watercolour included a lightning flash over the troops, never there but easily imagined in the original, and modern writers have interpreted the image as a metaphor for war. The fainting camp-followers and use of vermilion tones in the foreground may have alienated Ruskin's sympathies, but the power of the storm about to engulf the exhausted troops and their own compassion for the small group of women convince us of the sincerity of Turner's never-flagging fascination with, and feeling for, his fellow man.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1833, Moon, Boys and Graves Gallery, no.26
1878, Fine Art Society, no. 34
1900, ? no.32
1913, Agnew's, no.59
1959, 1960, BM
1966 Feb, BM, Turner Lloyd Bequest, no.23
1969 Feb, BM, Turner Lloyd Bequest, no.23
1985, BM, British Landscape Watercolours 1600-1860, no.93
1998 May-Sept., BM, J.M.W.Turner: Lloyd Bequest, no.28
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- UNDER THE TERMS OF THE BEQUEST, NONE OF THE PRINTS OR DRAWINGS BEQUEATHED BY R. W. LLOYD MAY BE LENT OUTSIDE THE BRITISH MUSEUM (Registration Numbers 1958,0712.318 to 3149).
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number