This painting, one of two views of Mortlake Terrace painted by Turner, is a view from the house, looking directly west into the luminous glow of the setting sun. Turner established the quiet mood of the late-afternoon scene with two ivy-covered elm trees, whose soft, feathery leaves and curving limbs frame the painting. Long shadows create elegant patterns on the lawn that almost obscure the human element in the scene. Scattered about are a gardener's ladder, a hoop, a doll on a red chair, and an open portfolio of pictures that have been just left behind by figures watching the Lord Mayor's ceremonial barge.
The painting was done about eight years after Turner's first stay in Venice, where his perception of nature and the physical world was profoundly changed by the city's unique light and atmosphere. Light immobilizes the river and gives its surface a dreamlike shimmer. The stable mass of the classical gazebo, the delicate linear clarity of its architectural details, and the carefully depicted windows in the buildings on the left bank of the river coexist in Turner's vision with the heavy impasto of the sun's forceful rays that spill over the top of the embankment wall and dissolve the stone's very substance.
Marks and Labels
Painted for William Moffatt [c. 1754/1755-1831], "The Limes," Mortlake. with William Bernard Cooke, the engraver, c. 1831-1838. Harriott, by 1838; (sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 23 June 1838, no. 111); bought by Allnutt. The Reverend Edward Thomas Daniell [1804-1842]; (sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 17 March 1843, no. 160); M.E. Creswick; sold 1851 to (Thos. Agnew & Sons, London); purchased 1851 by Samuel Ashton; by descent to Elizabeth Gair Ashton [Mrs. Hyde Ashton], Cheshire; by descent to Captain Ashton; sold 1920 jointly to (Thos. Agnew & Sons, London) and (Arthur J. Sulley & Co., London); sold 1920 to (M. Knoedler & Co., London and New York); sold 1 December 1920 to Andrew W. Mellon, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.; deeded 28 December 1934 to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1937 to NGA.
- Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1827, no. 300.
- Art Treasures of the United Kingdom:: Paintings by Modern Masters, Art Treasures Palace, Manchester, 1857, no. 256, as Barnes Terrace (on the Thames).
- Pictures and Drawings by J.M.W. Turner, R.A., and a Selection of Pictures by Some of His Contemporaries, Corporation of London Art Gallery, Guildhall, 1899, no. 23.
- Works by Early British Masters, City of Manchester Art Gallery, 1909, no. 30.
- Turner 1775-1851, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1974-1975, no. 310, repro.
- London and the Thames: Paintings of Three Centuries, National Maritime Museum for the Department of Environment, Somerset House, Greenwich, 1977, no. 48, repro.
- J.M.W. Turner, Grand Palais, Paris, 1983-1984, no. 36, color repro.
- Turner, Whistler, Monet, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris; Tate Britain, London, 2004-2005, no. 4, repro.
- J.M.W. Turner, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Dallas Museum of Art; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2007-2008, no. 76, repro.
- John Bull 337 (27 May 1827): 165.
- Morning Post, 15 June 1827.
- Bürger, W. [T. Thoré], Trésors d'Art en Angleterre. Brussels and Ostend, 1860: 425-427.
- Thornbury, Walter. The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A.. 2 vols. London, 1862: 1:305, 413. (2d ed., 1877).
- Armstrong, Sir Walter. Turner. 2 vols. London, 1902, 1:118-119, repro. opp. 120.
- Whitley, William T. Art in England 1821-1837. Cambridge, 1930: 131-132, 282.
- Jewell, Edward Alden. "Mellon's Gift." Magazine of Art 30, no. 2 (February 1937): 82.
- Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 199-200, no. 109.
- Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 241, repro. 19.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 124, repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1956: 12, repro.
- Cooke, Hereward Lester. British Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1960 (Booklet Number Eight in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.): 38, color repro.
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Treasures from the National Gallery of Art, New York, 1962: 140, color repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 240, repro.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 132.
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 2:370, color repro.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 119, repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 352, repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: no. 598, color repro.
- King, Marian. Adventures in Art: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1978: 80, pl. 48.
- Wilton, Andrew. The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner. London, 1979: 132, pl. 139 (color detail).
- Shanes, Eric. "The Mortlake Conundrum." Turner Studies 3 (1983): 49-50, repro., detail.
- Butlin, Martin, and Evelyn Joll. The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner. 2 vols. New Haven and London, 1977. (2d rev. ed., 1984): 1:147-148; 2:color pl. 237.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 410, no. 583, color repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 404, repro.
- Gage, John. J.M.W. Turner: "A Wonderful Range of Mind." New Haven and London, 1987: 9-11, fig. 12 (color).
- Wilton, Andrew. Turner in his time. London, 1987: 272, color pl. 170.
- Kemp, Martin. The Science of Art. New Haven and London, 1990: 159, pl. 317.
- Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 55, 67, color repro.
- Hayes, John. British Paintings of the Sixteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1992: 268-272, color repro. 269.
- National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1992: 156, repro.
- Hamilton, James. Turner: The Late Seascapes. Exh. cat. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown; Manchester Art Gallery; Burrell Collection, Glasgow. New Haven, London, and Williamstown, 2003: 53, 60-61.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 344-345, no. 277, color repro.
- Pergam, Elizabeth A. The Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857: Entrepreneurs, Connoisseurs and the Public. Farnham and Burlington, 2011: 313.
The fine canvas is plain woven; it has been lined. The ground is white, of moderate thickness, and masks the weave of the canvas. The painting is executed in a variety of complex techniques. Smooth, opaque layers are used for the sky and river; the background buildings are rendered in fairly thin, opaque paint, while the rest of the design is constructed in multiple layers of glazes, especially thin and liquid in the trees; there is stiff impasto in the highlights, and occasional sgraffito marks created with a blunt instrument are evident in the tree trunk and some of the foliage on the left side of the canvas. The dog standing on the parapet is constructed with brown paper cut in the shape of a dog, and adhered to the paint; the surface of the brown paper is either painted black or is covered with a thin layer of printer's ink. The parasol is not a paper collage element, but is applied in thick paint. There is retouching along the entire right edge, but otherwise the paint losses are minimal. The natural resin varnish has only discolored slightly.