Joseph Mallord William Turner

?Bridport (West Bay), Dorset


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour and graphite on paper
Support: 342 × 489 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 67

Catalogue entry

Eric Shanes has proposed this as an undeveloped colour study for a potential composition for Turner’s Picturesque Views in England and Wales.1 Turner had visited Bridport (the town itself is some way inland and the harbour is now know as West Bay) on his West Country tour of 1811, and made a rough sketch looking east to the harbour in the Devonshire Coast, No.1 sketchbook (Tate D08452; Turner Bequest CXXIII 47a), the basis of the watercolour Bridport, Dorsetshire of about 1818 (Bury Art Gallery and Museum),2 engraved in 1820 for the Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England (Tate impressions: T04398, T04399, T05367, T05368, T05982). That composition shows cliffs to the left (north) and the sea to the right (south), and there are no identified sketches looking west at Bridport.
The general arrangement of the present study, with the sea to the left and cliffs to the right, has more in common with the watercolour Lyme Regis, Dorsetshire: A Squall of about 1812 (Glasgow Museums),3 engraved in 1814 for the Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England (Tate impressions: T04378, T04379, T05369, T05370, T05967) and based on a drawing in the 1811 Corfe to Dartmouth sketchbook (Tate D08841; Turner Bequest CXXIV 29a).
Shanes has described the setting and development of Bridport’s harbour in some detail,4 although the topography and relationship of the pier(s) and cliffs shown here is somewhat generalised by comparison with William Daniell’s 1825 Voyage round Great Britain aquatint view of Bridport Harbour, Dorset, looking west from a higher vantage point (Tate impression: T02985). David Hill has described the status of Shanes’s identification as ‘not proven or positively dubious’,5 and the case will probably remain unproven, albeit persuasive.
See also the introductions to the present subsection of identified but unrealised subjects and the overall England and Wales ‘colour beginnings’ grouping to which this work has been assigned.
Shanes 1997, pp.27, 66–7.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.353 no.465, reproduced.
Ibid., p.351 no.451, reproduced.
Shanes 1997, pp.66–7.
Hill 1997, p.7.
Blank; inscribed in pencil ‘58’ right of centre, ascending vertically; inscribed in pencil ‘AB 94 P | O’ top left’; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram above ‘CCLXIII – 67’ bottom left; inscribed in pencil ‘CCLXIII. 67’. There is an isolated patch or stroke of blue-grey colour towards the top right.

Matthew Imms
March 2013

Transcribed in Finberg 1909, II, p.814.

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