Turner had made drawings in the Avon Gorge on his first visit to Bristol in 1791; a view looking down the river towards Cook’s Folly is in the Bristol and Malmesbury sketchbook (Tate D00077; Turner Bequest VI 5a). Both the viewpoint and the composition of the present drawing are almost identical to a watercolour by Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) now dated to about 1800 (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester; D.1997.4); as Greg Smith points out, the spot was famous for its drama and effects of colour and light, especially when the setting sun enhanced the natural redness of the rocks,1 and many other artists depicted it. Turner does not seem to have developed this sketch into a finished work.
See Greg Smith, Peter Bower, Anne Lyles and others, Thomas Girtin: The Art of Watercolour, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2002, p.223 no.172, reproduced.
The sheet is dust-stained and dirty.
Blank; badly stained; stamped in brown ink with Turner Bequest monogram.