J.M.W. Turner first visited Devon and Cornwall in 1811. He was on commission to make watercolours for engraving in the topographical part-work, Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England (published 1814–26). Later, in 1813 and 1814 the artist returned to Devon, but made no further exploration of the Cornish coast. Having gathered the raw data in pencil sketches during the tours, the watercolours were produced in Turner’s studio, often many years later.
Four of the finished watercolours exhibited here, were made for the Southern Coast and another topographical commission, Picturesque Views in England and Wales (published 1827–38). The others were produced for separate ventures: Ivy Bridge and perhaps also Sunshine on the Tamar for the aborted series The Rivers of Devon and Dartmouth and Okehampton for Rivers of England.
The two oil paintings in this room were not commissioned but painted for sale on the open market. Turner exhibited them in his own gallery in 1812, showing six paintings whose subjects derived from his West Country tour the previous year.