View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
- Part of
- The Ports of England
- Mezzotint on paper
- Image: 160 x 240 mm
- Purchased 1986
One etching and sixteen mezzotints, in various states, comprising ten subjects out of a total of thirteen; various papers and sizes
Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) 1986
Prov: ...; N.W. Lott and H.J. Gerrish Ltd, from whom bt by Tate Gallery
Lit: J. Ruskin, The Harbours of England, 1856; other literature as for T04790-T04819
‘It appears somewhat extraordinary’, reads the prospectus for The Ports of England which appeared in May 1826, ‘that in a maritime nation like England, immeasurably indebted to her naval achievements for opulence and glory, that a subject so deeply interesting and so intimately connected with her general history as a series of views illustrative of her several Sea Ports and Harbours, should have been to this period neglected’. The Ports of England seems to have been conceived by Thomas Lupton, acting in the capacity of both publisher and engraver, as a companion to The Rivers of England which was still at that date in the course of publication (see under T04790-T04819). The advertisement's patriotic text is published in full by Walter Thornbury (The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., 1862 ed., I, pp.411–12).
A copy of the prospectus is stitched into the Tate Gallery's copy of the wrapper to the series (T04822). Although its wording is identical to the example given in Thornbury, nevertheless the advertisement in the Tate's copy was published by Lupton alone while that quoted by Thornbury was published by Lupton in collaboration with Ackermann's of the Strand and Colnaghi - which may indicate that Lupton initially intended The Ports of England to be a joint publication. The publication details are given both on the advertisement and on the front of the wrapper, which states that ‘each number will contain two plates - twelve numbers to form a volume’. Prices ranged from 8 shillings for prints, 12s. 6d. for proofs on French paper and 14 shillings for proofs on India paper. There is no mention in the prospectus or on the wrapper of a French copyright, but this is indicated on the publication line of the first six plates, and was presumably organised by Lupton himself. The series was ‘Dedicated with Permission to his most Gracious Majesty George the Fourth’.
Turner's original commission, then, was for twenty-four drawings - or twenty-five if one includes the design he made for the wrapper. This latter drawing, now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, shows the flag, cannon and anchor motif which was faithfully engraved on the wrapper itself, probably by Lupton (see under T04822); the drawing also bears Turner's original title for the series, The Harbours of England, which was revived in 1856 whenthe series was republished by Gambart and Company, with accompanying text by Ruskin. Of the twenty-four port subjects originally commissioned from the artist, however, Turner only completed twelve. The first six of these (Wilton 1979, nos.751–6) were engraved and published by Lupton between 1826 and 1828 as the first three numbers of the series (Rawlinson II 1913, nos.779–84). Having been loaned to Lupton according to the same principle adopted for The Rivers of England, the original drawings are now in the Turner Bequest. The remaining six watercolours (Wilton 1979, nos.757–62), however, although their engraving was ‘nearly completed’ by Lupton shortly afterwards (Rawlinson II 1913, nos.785–90), were never published during Turner's lifetime (see Rawlinson I 1908, p.xliii). The plates appear to have been deliberately held back by Lupton following a quarrel with Turner over another plate the former was engraving from an oil by the artist at the same date, the mezzotint of ‘Calais Pier’ (Rawlinson II 1913, no.791: a full account of the quarrel is given by Thornbury op. cit., pp.413–16; see also Rawlinson II 1913, p.381). The watercolours were evidently sold, presumably by Lupton himself, soon afterwards to recoup some of his investment in the project, since they are today scattered in collections throughout the world (see Shanes 1981, p.12 and n.55, and Herrmann 1990, pp.161–2). Shanes argues that Turner also completed three other drawings for this series which were never engraved, ‘Ramsgate’, ‘Shipwreck off Hastings’ and ‘Folkestone’ (Shanes 1981, nos.81–3), but his reasoning is by no means convincing.
It is difficult to assess the significance of the dispute between Lupton and Turner over the engraving of ‘Calais Pier’ in bringing The Ports of England to a premature close: for Ruskin rather argued in The Harbours of England that it was the ‘reciprocal indulgence of delay’ between the two men that caused the series to grind to a halt; and Lupton certainly seems to have remained on good terms with Turner throughout his life, and to have retained a great respect for him (see Gage 1980, pp.266–7). Rawlinson argues that the series failed to attract subscribers (I 1908, p.xliii) - although in apparent contradiction he also states (II 1913, p.378) that only ‘a small number of early impressions had remained unsold from the original issue’ (i.e. of the first six plates published between 1826–8). A set of fine proof impressions of the original six plates was presented to the British Museum by Lupton in 1855 (BM 1855-10-13-1...6). The original six plates were reissued by Lupton, together with the remaining six unpublished plates, in the 1856 edition of The Harbours of England. The series was available either as ‘artist's proofs’ in a portfolio, or in book form with the prints issued in the first state (Rawlinson II 1913, p.379). The sequence of the plates seems to have been chosen by Ruskin, who collaborated closely with Lupton over the project, and the order of the original six plates was totally altered. The accompanying text by Ruskin includes a profile of each of the twelve ports which make up the series, but is perhaps most interesting when attempting to throw light on the problems Lupton had suffered in previous years regarding Turner's near-obsessional (and sometimes self-defeating) habit of touching the proofs (see under T04834 below). Rawlinson lists a number of later, inferior reprints-dating from 1857, 1859 and 1872 - as well as one of 1877 by Smith, Elder & Co. in which the plates were ‘carefully reworked’ (ibid.).
T04834 Portsmouth engr. T. Lupton, pub.1828
Mezzotint 161 × 240 (6 5/16 × 9 7/16) on laid paper 301 × 446 (11 7/8 × 17 9/16); plate-mark 201 × 268 (7 15/16 × 10 9/16)
Engraved inscriptions: ‘Drawn by J.M.W. Turner, Esqr. R.A.’ below image b.l., ‘Engraved by Thos. Lupton’ below image b.r., ‘PORTSMOUTH. | PORTS OF ENGLAND.’ and ‘PLATE VI. | London, Pubd. May 1, 1828, by Thos. Lupton, 7 Leigh Street Burton Crescent; Deposé à la Bibliothèque, et se vend à Paris, chèz Shroth, Rue de la Paix, No. 18.’ below image at centre
Exh: Tate Gallery 1989–90 (47, repr.)
Lit: Rawlinson II 1913, no.784, second state
In the accompanying text to The Harbours of England, Ruskin narrates an interesting episode relating to the translation of this print from the original watercolour. He observed that Turner, in an attempt to make a plate ‘sparkling’, was often tempted ‘to scratch out little lights’ all over the early progress proof, but often spoiled his original conception in the process; in this plate, he noted, the ‘gaunt, dark, angry wave, rising at the shoal indicated by the buoy’ which was evident in the early state of the print [before T04833] had become in the published state a dimly discernible ‘round nodding hollow breaker’ (this passage is quoted in full in Lyles and Perkins 1989, p.57).
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986-88, London 1996