Joseph Mallord William Turner

?Devonport Docks

c.1828

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 312 x 489 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D25205
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 83

Catalogue entry

Eric Shanes has compared this rather slight colour study with the watercolour Devonport and Dockyard of about 1828 (Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts),1 engraved in 1830 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impressions: T04551, T04552, T06084).2 There are no directly comparable pencil studies of the scene identified in the sketchbooks from Turner’s 1811, 1813 and 1814 West Country tours, which include many of Plymouth, the River Tamar and its estuary (the Hamoaze), with Plymouth Dock, subsequently Devonport, on its eastern bank. A related subject is the distant watercolour view of Plymouth Dock from Mount Edgecumbe of about 1814 (Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery),3 engraved in 1816 for the Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England.
Formally, the crux of Shanes’s identification is the juxtaposition of the shallow gable forms near the centre, the slim, triangular sail form and the tower reserved towards the right here; these correspond with the more steeply gabled dry dock sheds, a rather less prominent sail and a distant church tower in the finished composition, which includes dark clouds clearing away to the left leaving a bright sky, perhaps hinted at in the rough washes of the present study.
See also Tate D25176 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 54), which Finberg thought possibly showed Criccieth, but which may be of Conway Castle, the introductions to the present subsection of identified subjects and the overall England and Wales ‘colour beginnings’ grouping to which this work has been assigned.
1
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.395 no.813, reproduced.
2
Shanes 1997, pp.
3
Wilton 1979, p.352 no.456, reproduced.
Verso:
Blank (laid down and not examined).

Matthew Imms
March 2013

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