Joseph Mallord William Turner

Cliffs on the Coast, Possibly near Folkestone or in Cornwall

c.1830–5

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 335 x 499 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D25185
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 63

Catalogue entry

In 1997 Eric Shanes noted Ian Warrell’s unpublished suggestion that this loose, breezily atmospheric colour study represents a view of St Ives, Cornwall, comparing it with an 1811 pencil drawing of the town looking east from Man’s Head in the Devon and Cornwall sketchbook (Tate D41364; Turner Bequest CXXV a 82).1 The compositions are loosely comparable, but each includes details missing from the other, and any overall similarity appears fortuitous.
Shanes offers the alternative of a ‘Land’s End and the Longships Lighthouse subject,2 evoking the watercolour Longships Lighthouse, Land’s End of about 1835 (J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles),3 engraved in 1836 for Turner’s Picturesque Views in England and Wales (no impressions held at Tate). Again, there are very rough similarities, but the details here suggest another specific scene. For various colour beginnings evoking Land’s End in stormy conditions, see Tate D25129, D25163, D25165, D25172, D25274, D36323, D36324 and D36326 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 7, 41, 43, 50, 152, CCCLXV 32, 33, 35).
For its exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of Art in 2002, for which no catalogue was published, the work was retitled by Warrell as ‘Scene (possibly Folkestone)’, dated to about 1830–5, and associated with the England and Wales project.4 The composition can be compared with a pencil view of ‘Cliffs near Folkestone’ in the Folkestone sketchbook of about 1821 (Tate D17293; Turner Bequest CXCVIII 52a), which shows cliffs receding to the left and a tower comparable to the one shown here as a blue silhouette on the skyline. A similar view in the later Ideas of Folkestone sketchbook of 1845 (Tate D35374; Turner Bequest CCCLVI 14) may show the same landmarks. With the sea to the left, the views are to the west. Turner’s watercolour Folkestone Harbour and Coast to Dover of about 1829 (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven),5 engraved in 1831 for England and Wales (Tate impressions: T04570, T04571), shows the view in the opposite direction. See the entries for the colour studies Tate D25225 and D36327 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 103, CCCLXV 36).
1
Shanes 1997, pp.94, 95, 98; see also p.104.
2
Ibid. (all pages).
3
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.401 no.864, reproduced.
4
As noted in Tate catalogue files.
5
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.396 no.826, reproduced.

Matthew Imms
March 2013

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