Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Rock Arch on Burgh Island

1813

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

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 95 x 157 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D09446
Turner Bequest CXXXI 171 a

Catalogue entry

With the page turned horizontally, this drawing is part of a sequence working in from the back cover of the sketchbook, which correlates with accounts of a voyage Turner and others made from Plymouth south-east to Burgh Island, returning by land towards Plymouth. The sequence begins on folio 275 (D09476; Turner Bequest CXXXI 186a), under which the overall trip is discussed, and may extend as far as folio 228 verso (Tate D09382; Turner Bequest CXXXI 139a).
The sketches between here and folio 253 verso (D09432; CXXXI 164a) show Burgh Island, just off the coast at Bigbury-on-Sea and accessible across the beach at low tide. Turner’s party arrived by sea and continued to the mainland after a meal of shellfish. While these were being prepared, the artist’s companion Cyrus Redding ‘missed Turner, and found him, with a pencil and small book, near the summit of the island. I observed, too, he [‘was’ or ‘seemed’ in different versions] writing rather than drawing’ (for the full account, see under D09476).
The island is well known today for its art deco hotel, and this and the drawing on folio 259 verso (D09444; Turner Bequest CXXXI 170a) appear to show the rock arch nearby at the east end of the island, beside the hotel’s natural swimming pool cordoned off from the sea. Turner has recorded the outlines and strata of the rocks in some detail, using hatching and dark shading to a degree unusual for him.
Technical notes:
A stain towards the top right matches that on folio 261 recto opposite (D09447; CXXXI 172).

Matthew Imms
April 2014

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