Joseph Mallord William Turner

Defences around Portsmouth, with the Square Tower Semaphore Station and Other Buildings


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 160 × 100 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCVI 2 a

Catalogue entry

With the page turned vertically, there are eight or so studies here of the defences around the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour. Some are effectively too slight to identify positively; the third appears to show the Tudor Southsea Castle, at the southernmost point of the Portsmouth peninsula. The most detailed drawing, towards the bottom, shows the tower at Baltic Wharf (with a detail beside it), the clock tower of the Vulcan Block, the Square Tower semaphore station and Portsmouth Cathedral.
This is one of a continuous series of views around Portsmouth between folios 1 recto and 20 recto (D17913–D17951); many appear to have been made from a boat; for the overall sequence and details of the most prominent buildings and defences, see the Introduction. This page has been linked1 to the watercolours Portsmouth of about 1824 (Lady Lever Art Galley, Port Sunlight),2 engraved in 1825 for Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England (Tate impressions: T04419, T05302–T05304, T05994), and Portsmouth of about 1824–5 (Tate D18152; Turner Bequest CCVIII S),3 engraved in 1828 for The Ports of England, and reissued in 1856 in The Harbours of England (Tate impressions: T04833, T04834). The buildings around the semaphore tower all feature in both designs, but in different juxtapositions.

Matthew Imms
December 2014

See Butlin, Wilton and Gage 1974, p.94, re Ports and Southern Coast, Wilton 1979, p.387, re Ports, Shanes 1981, p.153, re Southern Coast and Ports, and Shanes 2001, p.159, re Ports.
Wilton 1979, p.354 no.477, reproduced.
Ibid., p.387 no.756, reproduced.

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