Joseph Mallord William Turner

Calais from the Sea


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 171 × 240 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXX K

Display caption

These three watercolours are part of a group that Turner developed during or shortly after his tour, taking his subjects from his on-the-spot sketches, or working in colour over pencil outlines. As can be seen from the overlapping washes, the views of St-Vaast and Chateau d'Arques were once joined on the same sheet of paper. Turner later developed a watercolour of the St-Vaast setting, introducing numerous figures in the foreground engaged in jousting in boats (now in an American collection). Similarly, the simple sketch of Calais may have contributed to the view of the town from the sea in the oil painting Turner sent to the Royal Academy in 1827 (Manchester City Art Galleries).

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

This colour sketch, formerly assumed to be a depiction of the coastline near Dieppe,1 has been identified by Turner specialist, Ian Warrell, as a distant view of Calais from the sea.2 It is associated with material gathered by Turner on the return leg of his 1826 tour of Northern France, perhaps with the failed The English Channel or La Manche print series in mind or else the major oil composition ‘Now for the Painter’ (Rope), Passengers going on Board (Manchester City Art Galleries), which he exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1827.3 See the Introduction to this section for a list of comparable studies of the city.
A.J. Finberg, A Complete Inventory of the Drawings of the Turner Bequest, London 1909, vol.II, p.686.
Ian Warrell, Turner on the Loire, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1997, p.217, no.38.
Ibid. pp.159, 172–6, 211 note 9.

John Chu
March 2016

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