View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
Technique and condition
This drawing provides the best evidence for the existence of an early oil painting by Turner, ‘a view of Rochester Castle, with fishermen drawing their boats ashore in a gale of wind’. The work is not known, but Thornbury’s second-hand description of it (related by ‘one who has seen it’) is very detailed and specific:
it bears a strong resemblance to De Loutherbourg, and is well drawn; being carefully and thinly painted, with thin scumbles of semi-opaque colour used in so fluid a state as still to show where it had run down the picture from his brush. It reveals the experienced water-colour painter at first using a new and denser material timidly, and with a hesitating hand that was soon to grow more daring.1
The view, the atmospheric effect, and the foreground boats in this watercolour all suggest that a subject like the one Thornbury’s informant describes might have been developed from it. Compare the study of the Hot-Wells, Bristol (Tate D00389; Turner Bequest XXII O), from which Turner evolved a watercolour that he exhibited under the title The rising squall, Hot Wells, from St Vincent’s Rock, Bristol, in 1793, the year Thornbury gives for the execution of the Rochester oil.
Walter Thornbury, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., 2nd ed., London 1876, p. 45.
Blank; stamped in brown ink with Turner Bequest monogram.