J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

Joseph Mallord William Turner Scene on the French Coast c.1806-7

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Scene on the French Coast circa 1806–7
D08105
Turner Bequest CXVI D
Etching printed in brown ink with pencil and brown watercolour additions, 180 x 254 mm on paper
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram bottom left
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Engraved:
Etching and mezzotint by J.M.W. Turner and Charles Turner, published J.M.W. Turner, ?11 June 1807 (see note below)
The present work is an impression of Turner’s own outline etching for the Liber Studiorum print, trimmed to the image with washes added by him as a guide for Charles Turner’s tonal mezzotint engraving work; the composition is reversed in relation to the original drawing (Tate D08104; Turner Bequest CXVI C). See the full catalogue entry for the latter for discussions of the subject, the various amendments to the design and the publication history of the subsequent print.
Finberg described his perception of the great advance Turner made at the stage of etching the composition: ‘Of course we cannot hope to grasp the whole difference that has taken place in this second version of the design. But here are two drawings made by the same hand, within a short space of time of each other, ... yet one is obviously a work of genius, and the other is as tame and lifeless as its companion is vivid, energetic, and full-blooded.’ He was particularly impressed by the way ‘the design has been ... “pulled together”’ and noticed ‘in the remodelled design the effect of that firm straight line of the distant sea in the centre, and the way the distant castle rises out of it. That is the nerve of the whole design.’1
1
Finberg 1910, pp.76, 77.
Technical Notes:
The thick printing ink resembles oil paint, and almost appears impasted in the heavy lines of the boat. The overall cool brown tone results from umber pigment in the wash and the possible presence of ivory black in the ink.1 A few lines have been added freehand to the etching, with additional dark areas in the sea in the immediate foreground. A main sail has been added to the small boat on the far left by scratching-out; the sail appears in this form in the published plate, with the contours of the hills beyond showing through.
1
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files, with slides of details.
Verso:
Blank, save for inscriptions.
Inscribed in pencil ‘11’, and ‘18’ [circled] centre
The sheet is abraded where it has been formerly stuck down.

Matthew Imms
August 2008

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Scene on the French Coast c.1806–7 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, August 2008, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-scene-on-the-french-coast-r1131709, accessed 02 August 2014.