Andrew Wilton suggested this as perhaps a Devon or Cornwall view, connected with the Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England series1 (see the Introduction to the 1811 tour of the West Country in the present catalogue).
Eric Shanes has called it ‘almost certainly ... a variant view’ from the watercolour Laugharne Castle of about 1831 (Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio),2 engraved in 1833 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales as Langharne [sic], or Talacharne Castle, Caermarthenshire (Tate impressions: T06103, T06104).3 That composition is based on a pencil sketch of the castle above the Taf Estuary in the 1795 South Wales sketchbook (Tate D00572; Turner Bequest XXVI 19); the only other sketch there (Tate D00574; Turner Bequest XXVI 21) is almost entirely taken up with the castle, and appears unrelated to the present study. A more likely Laugharne colour study, relatable to the finished watercolour, is Tate D25297 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 175).
The present study, with waves crashing against what appears to be a beach and rocks or cliffs, with a more or less level horizon suggesting the open sea to the left beyond the perfunctory silhouette of a castle-like building on a headland, evokes a coastal setting. When the work was exhibited in 2002–3 it was suggested that Falmouth, Cornwall might be the subject;4 if so, the view would be from the St Mawes side of Carrick Roads, looking west.
There are drawings in and around Falmouth scattered through the 1811 Devonshire Coast, No.1 sketchbook (Tate D08375, D08538, D08566, D08574, D08576, D08579, D08641, D08760, D08761; CXXIII 7a, 89a, 104, 108a, 109a, 111, 144a, 217a, 218), and in the contemporary Ivy Bridge to Penzance sketchbook (Tate D08901, D08905, D08906, D08908; Turner Bequest CXXV 24a, 27, 27a, 29). An overall view of the town, looking south-east towards Pendennis Castle on the peninsula rising beyond is shown in the watercolour Falmouth Harbour of about 1812–14 (Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight),5 engraved in 1816 for the Southern Coast. The castle alone is seen from the west in the watercolour Pendennis Castle, Cornwall, Scene after a Wreck of about 1816 (private collection),6 engraved in 1817 for the same series.
Wilton 1975, p.50.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.399 no.848, reproduced.
Shanes 1997, pp.27, 96, 105.
Warrell and others 2002, pp.86–7; Warrell and others 2003, p.95.
Wilton 1979, pp.351–2 no.455, reproduced.
Ibid., p.352 no.458, reproduced.
Ibid., p.388 no.762, reproduced.
Ibid., p.354 no.473, reproduced.
Ibid., p.396 no.823.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.87 no.123, pl.129.