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The River Dart flows eastwards north of Dittisham, roughly halfway between Totnes (see under folio 94 verso; D08542; CXXIII 91a) and Dartmouth (see under folio 3 recto; D08366). The focus here is the north side of the church (rather than Finberg’s supposed castle) across Dittisham Creek, shaded to indicate strong sunlight from beyond. Turner did not develop the composition but its subject appears to be confirmed by an 1820 print by F.C. Lewis of Dittisham from a similar viewpoint, which tallies in the main aspects of the landscape and the village’s relationship to it.
W.L. Wyllie relates a story told by the artist Sir David Murray (1849–1933):
[He] was once painting in an orchard at Dittisham ... when an old man came up to watch the progress of the work, and ... told how when he was a boy, a little man, with a tiny water-colour box and sketch book, had painted the very same view, and had given him sixpence for holding a great blue umbrella over him whilst he worked. His whole attention seemed concentrated on his sketch, and he paid no heed to the drizzle which was falling all the time. The boy found out afterwards that this was the great Turner.1
Given the details of the story and allowing for its apocryphal nature, this sketch is apparently not the work described, but the account at least indicates Turner’s presence in the district at some point. No other views of Dittisham are currently identified.
W.L. Wyllie, J.M.W. Turner, London 1905, pp.61–2.