Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Distant View of Margate after Sunset


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite, watercolour and ink on paper
Support: 244 × 368 mm
Bequeathed by Beresford Rimington Heaton 1940

Display caption

During the 1840s Turner produced many vividly-coloured watercolour studies of beaches and skies in loose, flowing washes. Most were apparently made for the artist’s own contemplation and satisfaction rather than as studies for pictures.

Turner made a number of views of the Norfolk port of Yarmouth in 1840. This one is primarily a description of the colours and effects of sunset, rather than a topographical record. It is worth noting however, that this work is not complete, although it is certainly more finished than other studies from this period, which suggests that Turner may have intended  it for sale.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Bequeathed by Beresford Rimington Heaton 1940
This evocative but slightly unresolved composition was acquired by Tate as ‘Coast Scene, Sunset’,1 and exhibited in 1986 and 1993 as ‘Yarmouth, from near the Harbour’s Mouth’.2 This association with Great Yarmouth in Norfolk was presumably by comparison with several works in other collection noted by Andrew Wilton as ‘traditionally known as Yarmouth subjects’ and dated to about 1840;3 see in particular a sunset subject of the same size in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin,4 now known as Ostend Harbour.5 However, it is ‘not known for certain that Turner visited Yarmouth after ... 1824’,6 and Ostend has been suggested as the subject of some of them in recent years. Robert Upstone7 has compared the melancholy mood of the present design, where three doll-like figures forlornly survey a cluster of beached lobster pots beside a decayed breakwater, with the watercolour Dawn after the Wreck of about 1841 (Courtauld Galleries, London),8 with its howling dog on a deserted beach under a crescent moon, and the 1840 painting of squabbling children on the beach at Margate, The New Moon; or, ‘I’ve lost My Boat, You shan’t have Your Hoop’ (Tate N00526).9
Although Upstone characterised the present work as ‘primarily a bravura account of the beautiful colours and effects of sunset rather than a topographical record’,10 Ian Warrell has since identified its setting as Margate at dusk.11 The slight indications on the horizon do indeed appear to represent the tall tower of Holy Trinity Church, which then overlooked the town, the lighthouse at the western end of the pier (perhaps with Droit House in between at the landward end), and possibly even Jarvis’s Landing Place running out into the sea. The clearer but still inconspicuous depiction of Margate’s landmarks in The New Moon was seemingly less vital to the artist than the evocation of transient atmosphere, and the same applies here.
The relatively ‘finished, yet not complete state’ of this work ‘suggests that Turner might have intended it for sale’,12 and it evidently left his studio towards the end of his life or shortly afterwards, but its early history and provenance awaits further research into its known previous owner, Beresford Rimington Heaton. A Yorkshire solicitor born in Leeds in 1863,13 he bequeathed it to the Tate Gallery in 1940 along with seven other watercolours by Turner (Tate N05236–N05238, N05240–N05243), and Pre-Raphaelite works by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Arthur Hughes (Tate N05228–N05235, N05244–N05245).14

Matthew Imms
August 2016

Tate Gallery Report 1953–1954, 1954, p.44.
See Yaegashi and others 1986, p.238, and Upstone 1993, p.34; see also Wilton 1987, p.132.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.468: pp.468–9 nos.468–10, all but the last reproduced; the present work does not feature among them or elsewhere in Wilton’s listing of Turner’s watercolours.
Ibid., p.469 no.1408, reproduced.
See concise entry, National Gallery of Ireland, accessed 18 August 2016,
Wilton 1979, p.468; see also Upstone 1993, p.34.
See Upstone 1993, p.34.
Wilton 1979, pp.467–8 no.1398, reproduced.
Ibid.,p.238 no.386, pl.389 (colour).
Upstone 1993, p.34.
Warrell 2016, p.159.
Upstone 1993, p.34.
See ‘Person Page – 55502’, The Peerage, accessed 18 August 2016,, and ‘Beresford Rimington Heaton, solicitor, deeds and papers relating to property, mainly in Leeds and Harrogate’, The National Archives, accessed 18 August 2016,
See Tate Gallery: Report, 1954, pp.44–5.

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