Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Wooden Hulk with the Old Church of St Mary at Chatham

c.1821

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 112 × 190 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D17450
Turner Bequest CXCIX 51

Catalogue entry

As identified by Finberg, the drawing on this page is dominated by an imposing wooden hulk on the River Medway at Chatham.1 With the sketchbook inverted according to its foliation, Turner composes the view within the top half of the sheet. He pays particular attention to the detailed architecture of the stern, meticulously recording the structure of the gallery and the position and appearance of the visible section of rudder. The rest of the boat is more briefly rendered, but the overall impression distinctive and sure. The waterfront buildings at Chatham are visible at right, and extend as far as the gutter.
At centre, towards the top of the sheet, the old church of St Mary seems to overlook the main prospect. The appearance of this church was entirely altered during the 1880s.2 A close match for the architectural design of the Royal Dockyard Church at Chatham, it can prove difficult to distinguish between the two structures. An inland perspective of St Mary’s is included by Turner at bottom right in Chatham, from Fort Pitt of about 1830 (private collection)3 engraved in 1832 as part of the ambitious Picturesque Views in England and Wales project of the 1820s and 1830s (Tate impression: T04588). The Dockyard Church is described on the opposite side of the painting and engraving, at far left. Using this composition as something of a guide to Turner’s impressions of the two buildings, it seems to demonstrate the square-facing viewpoint of St Mary’s that could have been achieved from the river, compared with the difficult diagonal angle of the Dockyard Church. Nonetheless, the relationship remains close between the two. For additional identified and presumed drawings of St Mary’s in the present sketchbook, see folios 21 verso, 24 recto, 51 verso, 55 recto, and 58 verso (D17401, D17406, D17451, D17455, and D17461).
For more information about Chatham, and a list of the folios in this book which depict it more broadly, see the entry for folio 22 recto (D17402).

Maud Whatley
January 2016

1
Finberg 1909, I, p.609.
2
Eric Shanes, Turner’s Picturesque Views in England and Wales 1825–1838, London 1979, p.153 under no.94.
3
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.398 no.838.

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