Joseph Mallord William Turner

At South Foreland


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

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 113 x 187 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCVIII 34 a

Catalogue entry

This crowded page demonstrates three distinct views captured by Turner, probably made at and in the vicinity of South Foreland, to the north east of Dover. This identification is in part encouraged by Turner’s inscription towards the bottom left corner, which appears to read ‘S Foreland’, as ascertained by Finberg.1 In addition, the sharp, clean, vertical drop which sees the cliffs plunge towards the sea, rather than slope, seems characteristic of the topography there.
Turner presents two cliff views, facing each other on the page as if to demonstrate a deep ravine or dramatic ocean gully. This is the amalgamated result of sketches taken in two directions, probably from a boat in the water, and represents an economisation of materials on Turner’s part, rather than an extraordinary natural feature of the landscape.
A third sketch has been quickly rendered at the top of this page, sectioned off from the rest of the sheet by a swift, softly waved line. Turner applies greater pressure with the pencil here than in the cliff renderings below. Continuing the contrast, he turns his attention inland across an expanse of countryside, and records the view with thick, dark marks. Trees are indicated by gestural loops and on the right a building is reduced to three simple lines. A sharply undulating scribble in the middle distance could be a town or perhaps a densely wooded area. On the far right, towards the gutter, a small, thickly drawn line seems punctuated at the top by a dot; this is possibly a figure. A delicate arch pushes the centre of the mark out, giving the impression of a lone individual with head and shoulders tilted backwards, observing a view that lies beyond the remit of the page.
For a full list of studies made at South Foreland in this sketchbook, see the entry for folio 8 recto (D17220).
Finberg,1909, I, p.605.
Technical notes:
A stain marks the top edge of this page, towards the left hand side, where a small tear in the paper has been bonded back together with glue.

Maud Whatley
January 2016

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