The Straw Yard by JMW Turner

The Straw Yard by JMW Turner, estimated £100,000-150,000 at Dreweatts.

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One of the pictures is the only known oil sketch from the artist’s famous Liber Studiorum (Book of Studies) – an ambitious project for which artist produced a large body of etchings and mezzotints of landscapes, seascapes, historical and pastoral scenes.

The project is considered to be one of the most important artistic achievements of Turner’s career although it was never fully finished.

Initially intended as a series of 100 prints, Liber Studiorum was produced between 1807-17 and eventually comprised a total of 71 images which were presented in 14 parts (as well as a frontispiece).

Turner categorised the works by subject such as ‘Mountainous’, ‘Marine’, ‘Historical’ and ‘Pastoral’ and the prints were further broken into sub-categories including ‘Modern-Day Country Scenes’, into which category the current work falls.

Titled The Straw Yard, the oil study depicts a rustic scene, with horses standing in front of a thatched barn, while men load bales onto a haystack. The work was initially untitled when it was published in 1808 (the engraved version appeared as plate 7 in part II of the Liber) and became known as The Straw Yard by early Turner scholars and collectors.

Although it is unknown why this particular work was created in oil, art historian Gillian Forrester said that it might have been a way for Turner to “explore the balance of light and shade in the composition”.

An unusual work to appear on the market, it is estimated at £100,000-150,000 in Dreweatts’ Old Master, British and European Art sale.

River landscape

River Landscape in France by JMW Turner

River Landscape in France by JMW Turner, estimated £70,000-£100,000 at Dreweatts.

Another work by Turner from the same source being offered at the June 12 sale is a study titled River Landscape in France. It is estimated at £70,000-100,000.

Depicting an indistinct riverbank with trees and a building in the distance, it demonstrates a more spontaneous and dynamic painting style that Turner adopted from the 1820s onwards.

The artist became ever more fascinated by the effects of light and shadow on his chosen subjects and, in order to capture the ever-changing atmospheric effects, his style became more abstract and experimental.

The work has provenance to Frank Barnett, the younger brother of Samuel Barnett (1844-1913), the social reformer and Canon of Westminster who was assisted for a time by Canon Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley (1851-1920), one of the founders of the National Trust in 1895.

Rawnsley married Edith Fletcher in 1878 and it is possible that the present study may have been a wedding present to them.