Joseph Mallord William Turner

Droit House, Margate, with Clouds over the Sea; Pegwell Bay


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 86 × 111 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCLXI 108

Catalogue entry

The studies of the sun and clouds over the sea on folios 105 recto–108 recto (D35677–D35783) and inside the back cover (D41151) were perhaps all made from the vicinity of Mrs Booth’s house in Margate, looking north over the beach, a favourite vantage point for the artist (see for example the group of ‘Margate Beach Scenes’ in the ‘Margate, London and Surrey c.1829–45’ section of this catalogue). The lighthouse on the adjacent pier may be shown in D35681. For other Margate views, see under folio 99 verso (D35666).
Inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation, the main sketch here shows a building with a cupola, apparently with sunbeams radiating from heavy cloud over the sea beyond. Although described as an ‘onion dome’1 which ‘hardly seems English’2 as depicted in the drawing of what seems to be the identical view on folio 9 recto of the contemporary Channel sketchbook (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven), both sketches actually appear to show the modest customs building, Droit House, beside the harbour at Margate, looking north-west up the virtually open sea of the lower Thames Estuary; the three bays on its north-east front are cursorily indicated in both cases. The rather grander Boulogne Cathedral has been suggested as an alternative,3 although it does not have a bulging ‘onion’ dome as such, and was still under construction when Turner drew it in clearly identified views in the 1845 Boulogne sketchbook (Tate D35430, D35431; Turner Bequest CCCLVIII 21v, 22).
Below, the other way up, is a view of Pegwell Bay, a few miles south-east of Margate; see also folio 103 verso (D35674).
Morris 1986, p.4.
Wilton 1986, p.9.
See Morris 1986, p.4, and Wilton 1986, p.9, the latter crediting Ian Warrell for the suggestion, p.18 note 10.
Technical notes:
There is extensive brown staining, possibly indicating water damage in the 1928 Tate flood.

Matthew Imms
September 2016

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