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Object of the month: May 2015

JMW Turner's fishing rod

Published 1 May 2015

Fishing was often a subject of JMW Turner’s paintings. Here we take a look at his own fishing rod.

  • This fishing rod belonged to JMW Turner RA, for whom fishing was his favourite recreation. He often went fishing on the banks of the Thames and at Petworth House, where he used this rod at the house’s lake.

    He was described by his fishing partners as being a successful angler who “even in fishing…was merciful”. One of his angling companions, Mr Jones, described how with “every fish he caught he showed to me, and appealed to me to decide whether the size justified him to keep it for the table, or return it to the river; his hesitation was often almost touching, and he always gave the prisoner at the bar the benefit of the doubt.”

  • Fishing rod belonging to JMW Turner RA, c. late-eighteenth to mid-nineteenth century

    Fishing rod belonging to JMW Turner RA, c. late-eighteenth to mid-nineteenth century

    © Royal Academy of Arts, London

  • Fishing often featured as a subject in Turner’s paintings and he often combined painting outdoors with fishing. One of his sketchbooks which he used while at the River Dee in 1808 features a list of his essential items to take on the trip: “Fishing Rod, Great Coat, Box Coat, Painting Box…Large Eel Hooks, Patent Yellow.”

    Turner’s fishing rod will be on display in Turner ’s Wessex: Architecture and Ambition at The Salisbury Museum from 22nd May – 27th September 2015.


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