Joseph Mallord William Turner

Coastal Terrain


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 185 × 230 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 79

Display caption

This watercolour was originally catalogued as part of the group of miscellaneous studies for book illustrations, which were produced by Turner between 1826 and about 1835. However, the sheet bears a Whatman watermark of 1841, which places it somewhat later than the vignette designs. The intense colours of the sunset overwhelm everything else in this subject, but it is possible to make out the vague suggestion of a tower on a headland, perhaps representing the cliffs at either Folkestone or Dover.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

This is one of a large number of sketches on loose sheets of paper depicting coastal terrain and seagoing vessels in various combinations. The fiery quality of the light in this particular sketch led art historian John Gage to connect it to Turner’s depictions of the burning of the Houses of Parliament in 1834.1 For the grouping and dating of these works to the middle and later periods of Turner’s career, see the section introduction.
John Gage, Colour in Turner: Poetry and Truth, London 1969, p.35.
Technical Notes:
The sheet was not available for inspection at the time of cataloguing.

John Chu
June 2015

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