Joseph Mallord William Turner

Coast Scene with Buildings


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In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Oil on board
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest M 1972 U738

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In the 1840s Turner made some of his most transcendent and beautiful works in watercolour. He also experimented in this same style in a series of oils on board, as shown here. The effects of light, reflection and atmosphere continued to absorb him; accounting for the vast bulk of his subject matter and output in this period.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

[from] Nos. 487–500: Sketches of Coast and other Scenes, c. 1840–5?

THESE fourteen sketches on millboard were discovered in the early 1960s in a parcel among the works from the Turner Bequest transferred from the Tate Gallery to the British Museum in 1931; they had not been numbered or included in Finberg's 1909 Inventory. They fall into three groups according to size, approx. 10 1/2 × 12 in., 9 3/4 × 13 1/2 in. and 12 × 19 in., but form a homogeneous group technically and stylistically. Two further sketches from the same parcel are distinct in style, technique and the type of millboard used (see Nos. 485 [D36676] and 486 [D36680]). Ship in a Storm (No. 489 [D36682]) is close in composition to Snow Storm—Steam-Boat off a Harbour Mouth, exhibited in 1842 (see No. 398 [N00530]), while others from the group such as Sunset seen from a Beach with Breakwater (No. 497 [D36679]) are the equivalent in oils of very late watercolours such as those in the ‘Ambleteuse and Wimereux’ sketchbook of 1845 (CCCLVII). However, compositional resemblances help very little in dating Turner's late works and comparison between works in different media is equally fruitless.

Thirteen unspecified sketches from Nos 485–500 were first exhibited at the British Museum in 1962 (see under ‘Lit.’ below).

Lit. Sketch Books and Albums of Drawings, German Gothic and Renaissance Prints: Oil Sketches by J.M.W. Turner. Exhibition held in the Department of Prints and Drawings 1962; ‘British Museum: Rediscovered Oil Sketches by J.M.W. Turner’, Illustrated London News 10 March 1962, p. 371.

487. [D36678] Coast Scene with Buildings c. 1840–5?


Millboard, irregular, 12 × 18 3/4 (30·5 × 47·5)

Coll. Turner Bequest 1856.

Exh. R.A. 1974–5 (469, repr.).

Similar in technique and support to the rest of this group and, though dated rather earlier than the rest when exhibited in 1974–5, almost certainly contemporary with them. Although the composition, with its architectural features, is comparable to some of the sketches on coarse canvas probably painted at Rome in 1828 (see Nos. 302–17), the paler tonality supports a later dating.

Published in:
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984

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