Joseph Mallord William Turner

Coastal Scenes with Shipping, Possibly on the Cattewater, Plymouth


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

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 300 x 230 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Catalogue entry

These two views, one above the other, appear to be variations of the same scene, with rocks on the left and a tower on a promontory on the right. It has been suggested1 that the compositions may be connected with the watercolour Catwater [sic], Plymouth of about 1826 (Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, Hobart, Tasmania),2 engraved in 1828 for the Ports of England but not published until 1856 in the Harbours of England series (Tate impression: T04836). It seems quite possible that these variants are ‘colour beginnings’ for the watercolour, which measures 159 x 229 mm, close to the dimensions of the individual compositions here. The view is to the east from Plymouth Sound, with the Mount Batten tower on the right, and is perhaps based on sketches in the 1813 Plymouth, Hamoaze sketchbook (Tate D09224, D09225; Turner Bequest CXXXI 7, 8).
On the recto is an unrelated watercolour study for the ‘Little Liber’ mezzotint traditionally known as ‘Gloucester Cathedral’ (Tate D25430; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 307).
Butlin, Wilton and Gage 1974, p.95, where the finished watercolour is dated to about 1824.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.388 no.761, reproduced; see also Eric Shanes, Turner’s England 1810–38, p.141 no.112, reproduced in colour.
Technical notes:
The technique is very washy and fluid, particularly in the upper view and on the right hand below. Pencil work is limited to the distant masts in the lower composition.

Matthew Imms
November 2011

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