Joseph Mallord William Turner

Watchet, with the Coast towards Minehead

1811

View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

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
D08687
Turner Bequest CXXIII 170 a

Catalogue entry

Finberg noted this sketch as the basis for the untraced watercolour Watchet, Somersetshire of about 1818,1 engraved in 1820 for the Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England2 (see the concordance of the series in the 1811 tour introduction). He analysed it at length, suggesting that the finished design probably ended up little resembling the actual site, but relating various elements of it directly to the seemingly casual pencil strokes here and evoking the process as an almost magical feat of ‘imaginative interpretation’.3
As clarified in the engraving, the shapes in the foreground are rocks, and the zigzags lines of posts sunk into the harbour. The viewpoint is east of the harbour, near where the coastal railway line now runs around public gardens above the later Eastern Pier; the near side of the harbour is now a marina accessed through a lock gate. In the distance is the hill above Minehead, to the west-north-west across Blue Anchor Bay. The same hill also appears in the Southern Coast view of Dunster and Minehead, based on the drawing made a little to the west on folio 165 verso (D08672; CXXIII 162a).
One of the small views on folio 171 verso (D08683; CXXIII 168a) may also be of Watchet.
1
Wilton 1979, p.353 no.464.
2
Finberg 1910, pp.99, 100; see also Shanes 1981, p.152, and 1990, pp.265 under no.234, 286 note 214.
3
Finberg 1910, pp.100–2.
Technical notes:
The leaf was once detached from the sketchbook, presumably for the sake of exhibiting the drawing, although there is no specific record of this. The fore-edge of the leaf is now not quite flush with the rest of the block.

Matthew Imms
June 2011

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