This study has been connected to a print project known as ‘Picturesque Views on the East Coast of England’; for more information about this project, which was abandoned before completion, see the Introduction to this section. While this study did not result in a finished watercolour or a print for the scheme, its format and blue paper support, as well as its coastal subject matter, suggest it was made with the series in mind.
The distinctive brown buildings seen in this study are ‘net shops’, wooden huts constructed from old boats to provide storage for fishing equipment. The location of the net shops, or net sheds, seen on this sheet has not been identified. A study of Great Yarmouth in the Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex sketchbook, which Turner drew on when working on his ‘East Coast’views, includes at least one net shop standing atop a slope (Tate D18176; Turner Bequest CCIX 11); no doubt Turner also saw them elsewhere during his exploration of the east coast. Great Yarmouth is represented within the extant watercolours for the ‘East Coast’ series by Great Yarmouth Fishing Boats (Stirling and Frances Clark Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts) and Yarmouth Sands (The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge), neither of which were engraved.
A completed watercolour showing net shops would have made an appropriate addition to the ‘East Coast’ series, which from the surviving evidence appears as concerned with the fishing and commercial activities of the east coast as it is with its topography. Turner’s inclination to portray something of the business of coastal communities is also well represented by the hub of activity hinted at in the foreground of this study.
The paper around the image is very discoloured, a legacy of its time in the ‘third loan collection’ of the Turner Bequest, which was exhibited in venues around the country ‘virtually without respite’ from 1869 until well into the twentieth century, according to Ian Warrell.1 As part of this extensive tour this study was exhibited in Leeds, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Dublin, Southampton, Bradford, Glasgow, Sheffield, Ipswich, Newport and London.
Warrell 1991, p.36.