Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Figure and Dog on the Shore, Perhaps with Margate in the Distance


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 191 × 290 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 232

Display caption

Turner’s late watercolour studies of the sea rarely include figures. These four works include the briefest indication of people walking or paddling on the shore. But the reduction of the figures to abstract marks seems to emphasise, rather than dispel, the bleak and lonely nature of these scenes.

Gallery label, July 2008

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Catalogue entry

Albeit with little or no topographical context, this light-filled beach scene, activated by the slighted of strokes at towards the bottom left to suggest a figure and a dog beside the water, has been suggested as a Margate scene. The blue forms applied wet in wet on the horizon may represent the profile of the town as seen to the east across the bay, as for example in the watercolour Margate, Kent of about 1830 (Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry),1 engraved for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales in 1832 (Tate impressions: T04590–T04592, T06098).
Compare Tate D24946 (Turner Bequest CCLX 110), a slight beach scene inscribed ‘Shrimper and his dog’, evoking the boy and leaping dog on an empty twilit beach in The Evening Star, an unfinished painting of about 1830 (Turner Bequest, National Gallery, London).2
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.398 no.839, reproduced.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.284–5 no.453, pl.454 (colour).
Blank; staining at bottom right corresponding with that on the recto; inscribed by ?John Ruskin in pencil ‘AB 218 P O’ bottom right; inscribed in pencil ‘CCLXIII | 232’ bottom right.

Matthew Imms
August 2016

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