Eric Shanes has tentatively identified this very free colour study as showing Dartmouth, Devon, a possible undeveloped subject for Turner’s Picturesque Views in England and Wales.1 If the identification is correct, the view is from the west, looking across the Dart towards Kingswear on the opposite bank and the sea to the south-east, perhaps from the junction of Crowther’s Hill and Jawbones Hill, and can be related it to an 1814 pencil drawing in the Devon Rivers, No.2 sketchbook (Tate D09731; Turner Bequest CXXXIII 51), with the darkest strokes in the foreground here roughly corresponding to the position of St Saviour’s Church in the sketch.2
Turner had also visited Dartmouth in 1811 on his first tour of the West Country, and in about 1814 he made the watercolour Dartmouth, Devon (currently untraced),3 engraved in 1815 for the Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England (Tate impressions: T04381, T04382, T05390, T05391, T05969). Two further watercolours followed in 1822 for the Rivers of England: Dartmouth Castle, on the River Dart (Tate D18137; CCVIII D),4 engraved in 1824 (Tate impressions: T04802–T04804) and Dartmouth, on the River Dart (Tate D18136; Turner Bequest CCVIII C),5 engraved in 1825 (Tate impression: T04808).
A watercolour of Dartmouth Cove of about 1826 (The Morgan Library & Museum, New York)6 had been engraved for England and Wales in 1827 (Tate impressions: T04507, T04508); Shanes has identified a second colour study (Tate D25162; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 40) as a nearby Dartmouth view, and tentatively suggests a third (Tate D25128; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 6). His dating of the present work, ‘after 1828’, stems from the 1828 watermark, and has been rendered here as c.1828–30 in line with his ‘late 1820s?’ date for D25162,7 postdating the engraved England and Wales Dartmouth view and perhaps suggesting that Turner had a companion piece in mind here. David Hill has described the status of Shanes’s identification as ‘not proven or positively dubious’,8 although the correspondences between it and the pencil sketch noted above seem more than fortuitous.
Shanes 1997, pp.95, 104.
See ibid., p.77, and see also pp.12, 27; the pencil sketch is fig.17.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.351 no.453.
Ibid., p.385 no.737, reproduced.
Ibid., p.385 no.739, reproduced.
Ibid., p.391 no.787, reproduced.
Shanes 1997, p.75.
Hill 1997, p.7.