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Eric Shanes has identified this colour study as a view of Dartmouth, Devon, from the west, looking to the Dart down the Ford Valley, as a possible undeveloped subject for Turner’s Picturesque Views in England and Wales.1 The valley was at that time a tidal inlet but has since been reclaimed and built over, while the hill on the left here is the site of the later Britannia Royal Naval College; the source appears to be an 1814 pencil sketch in the Devon Rivers, No.2 sketchbook (Tate D09730; Turner Bequest CXXXIII 50), which corresponds in the main points of topography, although the tower of St Saviour’s Church to the lower right of the sketch is omitted from the generalised treatment here.2 The viewpoint, today obstructed by trees and later development, appears to be around the top of Mount Boone.
Turner had also visited Dartmouth in 1811 on his first tour of the West Country, and in about 1814 he made the watercolour Dartmouth, Devon (currently untraced),3 engraved in 1815 for the Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England (Tate impressions: T04381, T04382, T05390, T05391, T05969). Two further watercolours followed in 1822 for the Rivers of England: Dartmouth Castle, on the River Dart (Tate D18137; CCVIII D),4 engraved in 1824 (Tate impressions: T04802–T04804) and Dartmouth, on the River Dart (Tate D18136; Turner Bequest CCVIII C),5 engraved in 1825 (Tate impression: T04808).
A watercolour of Dartmouth Cove of about 1826 (The Morgan Library & Museum, New York)6 had been engraved for England and Wales in 1827 (Tate impressions: T04507, T04508); Shanes has identified a second colour study (Tate D25184; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 62), watermarked 1828, as a nearby Dartmouth view, and tentatively suggests a third (Tate D25128; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 6). His dating of the present work, ‘late 1820s?’,7 partly by association with the 1828 watermark of D25184, has been rendered here as c.1828–30, postdating the engraved England and Wales Dartmouth view and perhaps suggesting that Turner had a companion piece in mind here. David Hill has described the status of Shanes’s identification as ‘not proven or positively dubious’,8 although the correspondences between it and the pencil sketch noted above seem more than fortuitous.
Shanes 1997, pp.95, 104.
See ibid., p.75, and also pp.12, 27; the pencil sketch is fig.16.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.351 no.453.
Ibid., p.385 no.737, reproduced.
Ibid., p.385 no.739, reproduced.
Ibid., p.391 no.787, reproduced.
Shanes 1997, p.75.
Hill 1997, p.7.