Joseph Mallord William Turner

Boats off a Jetty; Colour Study


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 184 x 293 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 267

Catalogue entry

Turner scholar Eric Shanes writes that this colour sketch may depict boats off a jetty at Bridport, Dorset.1 Turner had produced a view of Bridport for the Southern Coast of England series in 1813–7, which was engraved and published in 1820 (Tate impressions T04398–T04399, T05367–T05368, T05982). Shanes suggests that the present sketch may be a preparatory work for a potential Ports of England subject, though no finished view ever came to fruition.2 As a coastal town with a once thriving fishing port and rope-making industry and situated at the confluence of the River Brit and its tributaries, Bridport would have been an apposite subject for the series.
The loose rendering of form in the sketch makes it rather difficult to decipher definitive features of the landscape. A jetty or breakwater is visible, marked out in grey and stone coloured wash. The vertical peak of a sail rises up behind it. Figures have been roughly suggested in wash to the right of the jetty, one highlighted with a daub of vivid blue wash. The sky is rendered in an almost variegated manner, with dark blue-grey at the left and bare paper faintly highlighted with streaks of blue and yellow.
This view may be associated with another ‘colour-beginning’ of the same location dated around 1828 (Tate D25189; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 267).

Alice Rylance-Watson
March 2013

Shanes 1997, pp.95 Appendix I ‘Dorset’, 100 Appendix I ‘Ports of England Series’, 102 Appendix I ‘Southern Coast of England Series’; a reproduction of the Southern Coast view can be found in Eric Shanes, Turner’s England 1810–38, London 1990, p.57, no.33 (colour).

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