Friday, August 02, 2019

JMW Turner's Travelling Watercolour Paints

Yesterday I visited the Permanent Collection in the NEW Collection Gallery at the Royal Academy of Arts (one of the new developments). This is free to visit for everybody.

I viewed (amongst other items) the travelling watercolour set of JMW Turner RA which is currently part of a temporary display. Below you can see my photos of:
The travelling watercolour set of JMW Turner RA ca. 1842
Dimensions: 296 mm x 317 mm x 9 mm
The set was given to the RA by Given by Mrs Hilda Félicité Finberg in 1940
Watercolour palette owned by J.M.W. Turner, R.A.
175 mm x 148 mm x 4 mm
This porcelain watercolour palette was also given to the RA by Mrs Hilda Félicité Finberg in 1940. It's in remarkably good condition if a little scratched.

The imprint on Turner's palette for watercolours

It's clearly marked as being made by RB Newsom. This is what the online resource British artists’ suppliers, 1650-1950 maintained by the National Portrait Gallery has to say about this gentleman.
Richard Bowden Newsom, 14 Wellington St, Borough, London 1834-1837, oilman and artists’ colourman; 7, 8 and 9 Leyland St, Vauxhall 1837, candle maker and preparer of canvas and mill boards for artists; 9-10 Leland St, Lambeth 1839 candlemaker and colourman. Post-1839, see below.

Richard Bowden Newsom (1806-80) led a varied career over many years in retailing and manufacturing. He was christened on 22 January 1806 at St Mary Scarborough, the son of Joseph Newsom and Sarah Maria, née Bowden. He was apprenticed in 1820 to his father, a grocer and tallow chandler of St Albans, Hertfordshire, and a Citizen and Cordwainer of London, and was admitted in 1827 to the freedom of the Company of Cordwainers. His father set up as a tea dealer in the Borough in 1823.

Richard Bowden Newsom married Mary Wright in 1830 and they had eight surviving children. He traded from 14 Wellington St, Borough as an oilman and artists’ colourman from 1834 to 1837, and was specifically listed as an artists’ colourman in Pigot’s 1836 London directory. He was followed at this address by Frank Livett, oilman and artists’ colourman, in 1838. Newsom moved to 7, 8 and 9 Leyland St, Vauxhall, where he took out insurance as a patent wax candle maker and preparer of canvas and mill boards for artists in May 1837 (London Metropolitan Archives, Sun Fire Office policy registers, 564/1250680). In Pigot’s 1839 directory he was described as an artist, colourman and manufacturer of improved imperial wax and sperm candles, his last listing as a colourman.

His partnership with William Bayley the younger as goldbeaters at 79 White Lion St, Pentonville, and woodcutters in Hoxton, was subject to bankruptcy proceedings in 1860 (London Gazette 5 June 1860). Described as of Orpington, he was made bankrupt again in 1865, when in partnership with William Maslen and Thomas Tillam, gas apparatus manufacturers (London Gazette 7 February 1865). In census records he can be found in Lambeth in 1841, in Plaistow in 1851 as a ‘collector wine trade’ and in 1871 in Orpington as a retired grocer. He died in January 1880 at the age of 73, leaving an estate worth under £100.

Activities as an artists’ supplier: A porcelain watercolour palette once owned by J.M.W. Turner can be dated to the mid-1830s since it bears an oval printed label: R.B. NEWSOM/ 14 BOROUGH/ Requisites for/ Drawing & Painting. (Royal Academy, 03/7070). 
(see British artists' suppliers, 1650-1950 - N)

Watercolour swatch taken from travelling watercolour watercolour set owned by JMW Turner

This is described by the as the Watercolour test paper taken from travelling watercolour box owned by J.M.W. Turner, R.A.

Their photo on the website is considerably lighter than mine. I'm wondering if they're trying to give the impression of what it would have looked like when paper was white. So I had a go at changing the colour of the paper today - as viewed in a dimmish gallery - to one which was lighter and brighter.

Watercolours if paper is nearer to white (adjusted via Photoshop Levels)
The colours of the watercolour pans he used are as follows:

TOP ROW (left to right)
  • Carmine
  • Purple Madder
  • Purple Madder
  • Orange Chrome
  • Vermillion
  • Permanent Blue
ROW 2 (left to right)
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Brown Madder
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Raw Sienna
  • Cobalt (Blue)
ROW 3 (left to right)
  • Ivory Black
  • Purple Carmine?
  • Crimson Lake
  • Roman Ochre
  • Vandyke Brown
  • empty space
ROW 4 (left to right)
  • Burnt Umber
  • Intense Brown Madder
  • empty space
  • empty space
  • empty space
  • green colour no name
ROW 5 (left to right)
  • Burnt Umber
  • Intense Brown Madder
  • indecipherable writing (a mix?)
  • Olive Green
  • Yellow Lake
  • Lae Lake
ROW 6 (left to right)
  • Indigo
  • Indigo (lighter)
  • Yellow Lake
  • Brown Pink
  • Gamboge
  • Lae lake
You can see these items for yourself in the new Permanent Collection Gallery at the Royal Academy of Arts - which the RA seems determined to keep obscure as I can't find a reference to the space on their website.