Joseph Mallord William Turner

At Chatham, on the River Medway

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
D17451
Turner Bequest CXCIX 51 a

Catalogue entry

With the sketchbook inverted according to its foliation, across this and the facing page on folio 52 recto (D17452) Turner records multiple views of Chatham on the River Medway in Kent. The latter portion of this identification was made by Finberg.1
Three views seem to occupy the present sheet. The topmost of these demonstrates what seems to be a view from the northwest, observed from a boat in the water. At far right, the southwest facing St Mary’s church marks the shore with its distinctive tower. Additional drawings of this church in the present sketchbook are listed in the entry for folio 51 recto (D17450). Turner’s expansive view of the shore as it extends to the left, across the full width of the sheet, is delineated in great detail, describing specific architectural features and noting windows and doors as a matter of course. Behind, in the distance, the topography ascends. The angular silhouettes of the military forts at Chatham characterise the horizon.
The composition that stretches across the middle of this page seems to represent an amalgamation of two separate endeavours on Turner’s part. The long shape of a hulk in the foreground is spread from far right to almost far left, inscribed with various numbers. The sketch evokes the impression of great documentary interest in the vessel, and is likely to have been conceived before the other drawings on the page. The stern and bow are rendered in some detail, while the majority of the hull is simply encompassed by a light outline. At far left, to the left of this hulk, the buildings of Chatman are visible, viewed from a south westerly perspective. This identification is once again reinforced by the presence of St Mary’s Church. The prospect crosses the gutter of the page, and continues on the facing sheet. For an explanation of the northerly portion of this scene, see the entry for that page.
In the bottom left corner a final view continues the view of Chatham shore begun above and on the facing page. Here Turner records what his sketch of the hulk obstructs. Fort Amherst and the Great Lines are positioned on the horizon overlooking the harbour, inscribed ‘Chat L’ but Turner, and the topography slopes gently towards the river’s edge towards the right.

Maud Whatley
January 2016

1
Finberg 1909, I, p.609.

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