Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Stormy Coast, Possibly near Criccieth Castle, Bamburgh Castle or Dunwich


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 355 × 510 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 48

Catalogue entry

The ‘lightning’ noted by Finberg in his title ‘Storm, with lightning, on coast’ appears to be indicated by a roughly vertical stroke of chalk, barely legible now, against the pale area of cloud or sky towards the top left. This is one of four colour studies linked by Eric Shanes with varying degrees of certainty to the watercolour Criccieth Castle of about 1835 showing the castle at Criccieth, near Porthmadog, Gwynedd (British Museum, London),1 engraved in 1837 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impressions: T04610, T06126).2 The other studies are Tate D25161, D25174 and D25293 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 39, 52, 171).
Shanes has also suggested a link3 to the large watercolour of Bamborough Castle (Northumberland), exhibited in 1837 (private collection),4 for which there are other Bamburgh colour studies at Tate (D25456, D25457, D25506, D36321; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 333, 334, 382, CCCLXV 30). Another possibility he offers is in relation to the rather smaller watercolour on blue paper, Dunwich (Suffolk), of about 1827 (Manchester Art Gallery),5 which was engraved for the Picturesque Views on the East Coast of England (unpublished; Tate impression: T04613).6
All these finished designs feature distant buildings (of which there are no signs here) on promontories above broad beaches with figures, which are perhaps suggested here by the dark strokes towards the bottom right. As any identification of the present subject is likely to remain speculative, it is dated here to between 1828 and 1837, taking its watermark and the finished Bamburgh watercolour as parameters.
See also the Introductions to the present subsection of tentatively identified but unrealised subjects and the overall England and Wales ‘colour beginnings’ grouping to which this work has been assigned.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.402 no.876, reproduced.
Shanes 1997, pp.94, 95, 104.
Ibid., pp.93, 94, 104.
Wilton 1979, p.404 no.895.
Ibid., p.405 no.900, reproduced.
Shanes 1997, pp.95, 104.
Technical notes:
There is a vertical fold at the centre of the sheet, where the washes have gathered a little.
Eric Shanes notes that the paper is the ‘same’ as for the colour studies Tate D25165, D25167–D25169, D25171, D25184 and D25208 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 43, 45–47, 49, 62, 86).1 The ‘Ruse & Turners’ watermark was current from 1805 to the 1840s, representing various permutations of partners (Richard Turner and Mr Letts by 1828) producing paper at Upper Tovil Mill, Maidstone, Kent.2
Shanes 1997, p.98.
See Peter Bower, Turner’s Later Papers: A Study of the Manufacture, Selection and Use of his Drawing Papers 1820–1851, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1999, p.87.

Matthew Imms
March 2013

Transcribed in Finberg 1909, II, p.814.
See Ian Warrell and others, Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery, London 2012.

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