120. [T03882] Teignmouth Exh. 1812
TATE GALLERY AND THE NATIONAL TRUST (LORD EGREMONT COLLECTION) PETWORTH HOUSE
Canvas, 35 1/2 × 47 1/2 (90·2 × 120·7)
Signed ‘J M W Turn ...’ lower left
Coll. Bought by the third Earl of Egremont probably from Turner's gallery in 1812; by descent to the third Lord Leconfield who in 1947 conveyed Petworth to the National Trust; in 1957 the contents of the State Rooms were accepted by the Treasury in part payment of death duties.
Exh. Turner's gallery 1812; Agnew English Pictures from National Trust Houses 1965 (32).
Lit. Petworth Inventories 1837, 1856 (London House); Armstrong 1902, p. 233; Collins Baker 1920, p. 126 no. 658; Hussey 1925, p. 976 repr.; Finberg 1961, pp. 190–91, 474 no. 172; Gage 1969, p. 89, pl. 47; Joll 1977, pp. 375–8, pl. 3.
A study for the picture occurs on pp. 36–7 of the ‘Corfe to Dartmouth’ sketchbook (CXXIV) in use in the summer of 1811; this carries the composition further on the right and includes a row of trees fringing the bay. Another drawing on p. 35 shows the view looking back from beyond the boat under construction which appears in the oil.
A watercolour of Teignmouth (Yale Center for British Art; Wilton no. 452, repr.) which is similar in composition to the oil, but which differs in details, was engraved by W.B. Cooke in 1815 for Picturesque Views of the Southern Coast and again in 1828 in aquatint for A Selection of Facsimiles of Watercolour Drawings by British Artists (Rawlinson ii 1913, p. 401 no. 829).
This was one of a group of ‘seven additional landscapes, all of which display extraordinary merit’ which were noted by the Sun in a review of Turner's gallery published on 9 June 1812.
As Gage has pointed out: ‘... in the magnificent Teignmouth Harbour at Petworth, Turner produced a profoundly original design of astounding economy, and of the reverse order to his earlier Shipwreck, by raising the overall tone of the composition, and restricting the greatest lights and the greatest darks to the single small area of the girl and cows. It is perhaps the first example of a principle of chiaroscuro which Turner continued to develop in the 1820s and 1830s as peculiarly his own; and it is an early, possible the earliest, example of an overall spread of light of the type recognised by Turner in Veronese's Marriage at Cana.’ It was just at this moment that Turner was preparing his ‘Backgrounds’ lecture, in the series he delivered in 1812 as Professor of Perspective, in which he pays especial attention to an analysis of Veronese's colour (see also No. 114). Gage's observations about Turner developing ‘the principle of chiaroscuro’, shown in Teignmouth, in the 1820s and 1830s, are also applicable to the colour and handling in certain areas, notably the foreground, where there are passages which come close to much later canvases such as The Evening Star (see No. 453 [N01991]).
Collins Baker transcribed the signature as ‘J M W Turner 1812’ but this is no longer legible. The picture suffered badly when the original and lining canvases became detached about 1957, causing blistering and corrugations. The work of recovery and restoration undertaken by Mr John Brealey, although involving a good deal of repainting in the sky, has done much to reveal anew the picture's extraordinary beauty.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984