The Fountain of Indolence

Joseph Mallord William Turner

England (1775 - 1851)
The Fountain of Indolence, 1834
oil on canvas
105.7 x 166.4 cm
Gift of The Beaverbrook Foundation

Joseph Mallord William Turner’s painting The Fountain of Indolence is often referred to as a puzzle. At first glance it is a landscape reminiscent of those he saw during tours of Italy in 1819-1820. However, there is the issue of the people, based on pilgrims in the poem Castle of Indolence by poet James Thompson. In the painting they have been lured into the Castle of Indolence, and are now frolicking in the nude, certainly giving credence to the title. Although the painting was renamed The Fountain of Fallacy in 1839, it eventually reverted without explanation to The Fountain of Indolence. While questions remain, there has always been agreement on the genius of Turner’s work.