Joseph Mallord William Turner

A View or Views on the West Country Coast, Possibly at Whitesand or Whitsand Bay near Plymouth, Whitesand Bay, Land’s End, or Clovelly


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 141 × 215 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXV a 3

Catalogue entry

As noted below, A.J. Finberg and C.F. Bell each interpreted the first and last words of Turner’s inscription as referring to Whitsand Bay and Clovelly, which do seem to be the names Turner intended, although his full phrase remains resistant both as to reading and interpretation. ‘Whitsand Bay’ may refer to the Cornish coast (also known as Whitesand Bay) west of Plymouth, or to Whitesand Bay, north of Land’s End at the western tip of Cornwall. For the former, see Tate D08580 and D08606 (Turner Bequest CXXIII 111a, 125a) in the contemporary Devonshire Coast, No.1 sketchbook; only one other sketch in the present book, on folio 2 recto (D41277) has so far been identified as having been made in the Plymouth area. For the Land’s End alternative, see folios 28 recto and 29 recto (D41304, D41305).
Neither bay is near Clovelly, on the coast of North Devon, of which there are various close and distant studies in this sketchbook – see under folio 43 recto (D41322). The illegible word between, which appears to be another place name, might provide the key, but it is unclear whether the drawing comprises a single view, looking over a headland in the foreground to a distant bay, two views of completely separate sites, one above the other, or a single view split into two, with the upper part being a continuation to the right of the lower.
As discussed in the introduction, the pages of this ‘sketchbook’ appear to have originally been loose sheets, and are not recorded in Finberg’s 1909 Inventory of the Bequest, although he subsequently noted Turner’s inscription identifying the subject as ‘“Whitsand Bay near Waken (?) to Clovelly”’ in a manuscript listing,1 while Bell gave it as ‘“Whitsand Bay from ... to Clovely”’.2 Figures usually corresponding to Finberg’s MS catalogue page numbers, which differ from Bell’s sequence, are inscribed on the verso of most sheets.
A.J. Finberg, MS addenda, [circa 1928–39], tipped into a copy of his A Complete Inventory of the Drawings of the Turner Bequest, London 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, vol.I, opposite p.356, as CXXV(a) 74.
C.F. Bell, MS addenda, [after 1928], tipped into a copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, vol.I, p.356A, as CXXVa 3.
Technical notes:
The sheet is slightly wrinkled, possibly as a result of exposure to damp.
Blank, save for inscriptions: inscribed by C.F. Bell in pencil ‘Whitesand Bay’ bottom left; inscribed by Edwin Fagg in pencil ‘174 | 74’ bottom right. There are glue stains at the corners of the sheet.

Matthew Imms
July 2011

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