Joseph Mallord William Turner

Boats; Views of Calais


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 118 × 78 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXVI 186 a

Catalogue entry

These previously unidentified sketches, catalogued by Finberg as ‘Boats’ and ‘Distant towers of a city’, can now be shown to depict the northern French port city of Calais. Turner arrived there on 9 September 1824 and returned five days later on the 14th, the eve of his departure back to England.
With the sketchbook orientated in accordance with the foliation, the upper register shows cliffs on the Channel and a view of Calais harbour with shipping. Beyond the billowing sails of the vessels in the foreground, a column can be seen. This is the Colonne Louis XVIII, a memorial erected in 1814 to celebrate the French King’s return from exile following the collapse of the Napoleonic Empire.1 At left and at sea, is a small area of hatching which may represent the wooden platform atop which the Fort Rouge was built (see Tate D19924; Turner Bequest CCXVI 187).
With the sketchbook turned upside down, a sketch of coastline at Calais is visible across the middle register. Above it is a rough jotting of the interior of a hull, and above that in turn is a sketch of the city of Calais from a distance, with three of its monuments in view: the thirteenth-century Church of Notre-Dame, the Tour du Guet, and the Town Hall. For other sketches of Calais landmarks see Tate D04269, D24857–D24858, D24906, D24949, D24968–D24969; Turner Bequest LXXI 67, CCLX 21–22, 70, 113, 132–133. See also Tate Impression T04761 and David Cox’s watercolour of the city dated between 1829 and 1832 (N04301).

Alice Rylance-Watson
June 2014

‘Louis XVIII a débarqué à Calais il y a tout juste deux siècles : histoire d’un bicentenaire oublié’, La Voix du Nord, accessed 6 October 2014,

Read full Catalogue entry


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