Joseph Mallord William Turner

?A Child with a Toy Boat among Other Figures on a Seashore, Perhaps at Margate

c.1829–30

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 89 × 113 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D22514
Turner Bequest CCXLI 46 a

Catalogue entry

With the page turned horizontally, the upper third comprises a view of a beach with figures, with breakers out to sea on the left and masts in the distance. Various silhouetted forms on the right appear to be figures, including one seen from the back wearing a hat, a smaller figure crouching or sitting beside a small upright form which might be the sail of a toy boat; the jumble of marks towards the right may be more figures. That a toy boat and a child may be the focus is suggested by Turner’s inscription, which probably is ‘Marine Dabbler’, as Finberg transcribed it.1
This would be a recollection of the Marine Dabblers design Turner made of boys playing with toy boats (and distressingly losing one of them) for his Liber Studiorum series of landscape prints.2 For further discussion of the theme and its metaphorical implications,3 see the entry for the Liber watercolour study of about 1808 (Tate D08133; Turner Bequest CXVII F), which was engraved in 1811 (Tate impression: A00969). The present incident was perhaps observed at or near Margate, the subject of other drawings in this sketchbook; see the Introduction.

Matthew Imms
May 2014

1
Finberg 1909, II, p.741.
2
See Wilton 1974, p.125, Wilkinson 1975, p.50, and Bailey 1997, p.279.
3
See also Chumbley and Warrell 1989, p.42, and Forrester 1996, p.80.

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