Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sidmouth Beach and the Coast to the West

1811

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Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 75 x 117 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D08737
Turner Bequest CXXIII 205

Catalogue entry

Eric Shanes has suggested that this drawing and that on folio 206 verso (D08734; CXXIII 203a) were ‘synthesized’ to form the composition of the watercolour of Sidmouth of about 1824 (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester),1 engraved for The Ports of England in 1828 (but not published until 1856 in The Harbours of England).2 The present sketch shows a view from the beach west towards High Peak, in the opposite direction to the other one, which forms the basis of the watercolour’s composition.
The feature Turner did take from the present drawing is the prominent rock in the sea to the left, transformed in the watercolour into what Shanes has described as a phallic visual pun on the 1823 marriage of the ageing Viscount Sidmouth to a much younger woman.3 James Hamilton has supported this interpretation, since the rock in the watercolour is ‘overwhelmingly larger’ than it appears in the present drawing,4 although the idea has been disputed elsewhere.5
Towards the beginning of the sketchbook is a slight sketch of cliffs inscribed ‘Sidmouth’ on folio 17 verso (D08394), and the coastline recorded on folio 210 recto (D08740; CXXIII 207) may be nearby.
1
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.388 no.759, reproduced.
2
Shanes 1981, pp.37, 152, and 1990, p.138; see also Hartley 1984, p.47, and Nugent and Croal 1997, p.74.
3
Shanes 1981, p.37.
4
Hamilton 2003, p.163.
5
Hartley 1984, p.48; Nugent and Croal 1997, p.74
Technical notes:
There is some offsetting from the ink inscription on folio 207 verso opposite (D08736; CXXIII 204a).

Matthew Imms
June 2011

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