Joseph Mallord William Turner

Durlston Bay, Swanage Bay and Old Harry Rocks


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 170 × 209 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXIV 11

Catalogue entry

Viewed from Durlston Head at the south-eastern tip of the Isle of Purbeck, Peveril Point is seen in the middle distance, masking the town and harbour of Swanage. Beyond Swanage Bay is Ballard Down, the eastern termination of the Purbeck Hills, with its cliffs and the stacks of Old Harry Rocks. They form a counterpart to the Needles, about eighteen miles to the east on the Isle of Wight and a continuation of the same chalk strata, which Turner sketched from Christchurch earlier on this tour (Tate D08403, D08411, D08419, D08421; Turner Bequest CXXIII 22, 27, 31, 32). In clear conditions the island is readily visible from Swanage.
The sketchbook’s sequence suggests that after Turner drew at Corfe Castle, beginning on folio 1 recto (D08807), he proceeded south-east towards Swanage, by-passing the town initially to reach the southern coast of Purbeck. The relative elevations here indicate that he stood on the highest point of Durlston Head, now occupied by the Victorian Durlston Castle (under restoration and inaccessible at time of writing). There are similar viewpoints on the coastal paths along the cliffs north of the castle, and the scene is a popular postcard subject (a Victorian stone placed along the adjacent cliff path is inscribed ‘Rest and admire’). Further views of Swanage follow on folios 12 recto, 13 recto, 14 recto and 15 verso (D08819–D08822).
Technical notes:
The whole sheet has been torn in two, but neatly repaired. The irregular vertical tear, about two-thirds from the left, has been made good by overlapping and gluing the torn edges, resulting in a very slight lateral loss to the composition.

Matthew Imms
February 2011

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