View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
Finberg1 noted this as a likely study for the ambitious watercolour Scarborough Town and Castle: Morning, Boys Catching Crabs exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1811 (685 x 1015 mm; Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide),2 initially owned by Turner’s Yorkshire friend and patron Walter Fawkes (see the Introduction to the present section). Andrew Wilton has instead linked it convincingly to the relatively small Scarborough: Boys Crab Fishing of 1809 (279 x 398 mm; Wallace Collection, London),3 which had been painted for Fawkes’s relative, the amateur artist and collector Sir William Pilkington (1775–1850).4
The two finished works are fundamentally very similar in composition, with a steep bank shored up with wooden posts on the left acting as a repoussoir device for a prospect of Scarborough’s bay and castle beyond on the coast of North Yorkshire. The sky in the Wallace Collection work is clear and full of glowing morning light coming from the right, rather than the somewhat changeable clouds shown above the castle here. A much larger study (Tate D17167; Turner Bequest CXCVI C) is likely to relate directly to the 1811 work.
The basic composition is outlined in the 1801 Dunbar sketchbook (Tate D02770–D02771; Turner Bequest LIV 95a–96); David Hill has suggested that the large 1811 variant developed from the Pilkington picture, rather than from the original drawing’.5 Although Turner drew other aspects of the town and its setting in 1801 and around 1816, the watercolour Scarborough of 1818 (private collection)6 is a variant of the 1809 and 1811 compositions, albeit with more prominent cliffs on the left, while the Ports of England watercolour Scarborough, of about 1825 (Tate D18142; Turner Bequest CCVIII I)7 focuses in on the castle and its headland from a comparable angle.8
Manuscript exhibition records note the loan of Turner Bequest ‘CXVI B’ to Scarborough in 1947, although whether for the purpose of exhibition is unclear; that number relates to Tate D08103, the Liber Studiorum watercolour Woman with Tambourine, and perhaps the present works number, CXCVI B, was meant.
Finberg 1909, I, p.599.
Wilton 1979, p.360 no.528, pl.122 (colour).
Ibid., no.527, reproduced.
See Terry Riggs, ‘Pilkington, Sir William’ in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann (eds.), The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, p.229.
Hill 1980, p.16.
Wilton 1979, p.360 no.529, reproduced.
Ibid., p.387 no.751, reproduced.
See also Hill 1980, p.16.