Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Figure on Top of a Precipitous Cliff

?1795–1800

View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 264 x 204 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D41253

Catalogue entry

The following is inscribed in ink at the top of the page. The last entry has been deleted with wash:
Church at Newport Isle of Wight.      Novr   2 1800 
Winchester Cross -    ..   Mr. Alexander – 
Northampton Do         – 
The last entry has been deleted with a stroke of wash.
The pencil sketch is very slight and stylised, almost a diagram, and may not be by Turner. It is somewhat reminiscent of certain drawings of Henry Fuseli (1741–1825); for example a study inscribed ‘Devils Dyke’ (Öffentliche Kunstsammlungen, Basel), where diminutive figures are seen on precipitous paths above a vertiginous cliff with the sea below. A more substantial drawing, The Ladies of Hastings (Kunsthaus, Zurich), contains larger figures, including a man looking up from below at promenading women. The former dates to around 1790, and the latter to 1798–1800.
The drawing here and Fuseli’s sketches are connected, however tenuously, by an experience of the coastal cliffs of southern England. The only portion of the Isle of Wight coast that might correspond to this extremely summary sketch is the height of what is now called Tennyson’s Down, above Freshwater Bay.

Andrew Wilton
April 2012

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