View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
Although this study of rough waves and overarching clouds gives no indication of a particular setting. Eric Shanes has suggested that it may relate to either of two watercolours among Turner’s Southern Coast designs (see the Introduction to this section).1 One of Brighton made in about 1824 (Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton and Hove),2 was engraved in 1825 as Brightonhelmston, Sussex (Tate impressions: T04420–T04421, T05288–T05996); another, Deal, Kent of about 1825 (Deal Town Council), 3 was engraved in 1826 (T04422, T05236–T05237, T05998). They show the towns from off shore across choppy seas; the Brighton view has a bright, clearing sky with a rainbow, but the backdrop to Deal is dark with cloud over a bright horizon.
Other studies linked to Brighton or Deal in the present section are Tate D25410, D25426 and D36117 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 287, 303, CCCLXIV 270). Tate D25477 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 354) may represent an idea for a Southern Coast composition including Walmer Castle, near Deal. Despite the present work’s relatively small scale,4 Gerald Wilkinson, an artist and independent writer on Turner, remarked appreciatively: ‘If I had to choose just one of the “Colour Beginnings” it would be this one.’5
The bright sky between the clouds and waves has been left as blank paper to maximise the contrast. Eric Shanes has drawn stylistic parallels between this study and numerous other ‘colour beginnings’ of coastal subjects (Tate D25365, D25383, D25393, D25410, D25422, D25426, D25477, D36117; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 243, 260, 270, 287, 299, 303, 354, CCCLXIV 270), even suggesting they ‘may have been created during the same session of work’.1
Shanes 1997, p.61