Joseph Mallord William Turner

Dover Castle


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour, graphite and gouache on paper
Support: 475 × 682 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 378

Display caption

In 1822 Turner and the engraver William Cooke contemplated producing a series of engraved scenes of marine scenery. One of the first of the new watercolours produced for this 'Marine Views' project was a view of Dover Castle from the sea, included in the exhibition at Cooke's Gallery in December 1822, and based on the preparatory study exhibited here. The other large colour study shown here relates to a watercolour (now in the British Museum) which depicts a fierce storm and shipwreck. The view of Folkestone is more finished, but is probably another subject intended for the group of 'Marine Views'.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

This large ‘colour beginning’ is a variant study for the large 1822 watercolour Dover Castle (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston).1 Although not listed by Andrew Wilton as one of the scenes engraved for or associated with the engraver and publisher W.B. Cooke’s Marine Views print scheme,2 it was exhibited at Cooke’s Gallery in 1823 (26, as ‘Drawn in December 1822’)3 along with comparable works including one of the engraved subjects (see the Introduction to this section), and has been included in subsequent discussions of the series.4
The clearest difference between the present work and the composition as developed is in the placing of the lugger in the foreground: positioned in the middle here, if not tending towards the right, it was moved to about a third of the way in from the left in the finished design in a more dynamic juxtaposition with the piers, leaving room for the introduction of an animated grouping of various English Channel craft towards the right, and allowing the eye to focus on the glowing form of Dover Castle above the centre, dominating the famous white cliffs.
Ian Warrell has noted the similarity to this design and a watercolour study in the Ports of England sketchbook of the early 1820s (Tate D17733; Turner Bequest CCII 14), while suggesting that it probably relates more directly to the smaller Ports of England watercolour Dover of about 1825 (Tate D18154; Turner Bequest CCVIII U),5 where the prominent cliffs rising at the left suggest a more westerly viewpoint. Alice Rylance-Watson’s entry for the latter includes a comprehensive listing of Turner’s many depictions of the Kent port and its castle.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.357 no.505, as ‘Dover from the sea’, reproduced.
Ibid., pp.357–8 nos.506–512.
Alexander J. Finberg, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A. Second Edition, Revised, with a Supplement, by Hilda F. Finberg, revised ed., Oxford 1961, p.484 no.281.
See Warrell 1991, p.29, and Shanes 1997, pp.28, 99.
See Warrell 1991, p.29.
Technical notes:
There is loose pencil work underlying the design, including extensive suggestions of masts and sails or flags at the left. The strong, fresh colours are also characteristic of other Marine Views studies, particularly those for A Storm (Shipwreck) on the same Whatman 1822 paper. Thomas Ardill has noted the ‘rich blue for the sky, with pale yellow for cliffs and boats, and a blue toned-down with the yellow for the greenish sea’ here.1
Ardill 2009, p.173.

Matthew Imms
July 2016

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