Joseph Mallord William Turner

Figures; Distant Views of Calais


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 118 × 78 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXVI 176

Catalogue entry

Rendered with nimble and crisp line, these sketches show three figures and distant views of the port of Calais in northern France. All have been drawn with the sketchbook turned upside down. One of the figures, a woman, is recorded at left. A strong gust of wind blows her dress forward and she is pictured attempting to gather it towards her. She bows her head slightly, so that her bonnet may shield her a little from the wind. A shawl ripples around her shoulders. Two more figures are sketched next to the wind-swept woman: a local wearing a cape, a traditional Dutch bonnet, carrying a basket and a male figure, who appears to be walking into a gust of wind. The views of Calais which surround the figure sketches are rendered in profile, and show windmills marked out with crosses, the Church of Notre-Dame, the Tour de Guet, the Hotel de Ville and the Lighthouse. A wider view of Calais shows part of the opening and the walls of the harbour, with an array of boats moored within. A note has been inscribed at the rear of this view, but it is almost entirely illegible.
Turner was in Calais at the beginning of his tour on 11 August and returned there twice towards the end of his travels on 9 and 14 September. For earlier and later drawings of this French port city see Tate impression A01116, Tate D04198, D04206, D04269, D16884, D24857–D24858, D24906–D24907, D24949, D24968–D24969; Turner Bequest LXXI 6, 14, 67, CXCIII 103, CCLX 21–22, 70–71, 113, 132–133. For the Phare de Calais (the lighthouse) see a drawing by David Cox (1783–1859) in pencil and watercolour (N04301) and the engraving after Turner’s design for Scott’s Prose Works (T04761).

Alice Rylance-Watson
June 2014

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