Joseph Mallord William Turner

Figures on a Quay Overlooking Portsmouth Harbour


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 110 × 185 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXXVII 23

Catalogue entry

This busy scene with figures and what appear to be market stalls has Portsmouth Harbour as its backdrop, where moored warships are shown. The waterfront has since undergone much development, and the viewpoint is unclear, but may be on the Gosport side looking east to the dome of Portsmouth Cathedral, just to the left of centre. Turner was presumably using the opportunity of embarking for or returning from the Isle of Wight (see under folio 2 recto; D20735) to make a few studies, complementing his sustained survey of Portsmouth and Gosport, probably dating to 1824, in the London Bridge and Portsmouth sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest CCVI).
The skyline of the slight sketch at the top left appears to include the Vulcan Block clock tower and the tower at Baltic Wharf (which does not survive). The clearest feature of the corresponding sketch at the top right is the semaphore tower at the main naval dockyard complex, which is some way to the north of the other buildings; it also seems to be roughly indicated in a view from the Portsmouth side on folio 10 recto (D20747), under which other Portsmouth views are discussed.
On folio 32 verso (D20779; Turner Bequest CCXXVII 30) is a sketch of two women whom way have been among those shown here.
Technical notes:
As discussed in the sketchbook’s introduction, this leaf’s blank recto does not have a Tate ‘D’ accession number. It was prepared with a grey wash, and is inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘23’ and stamped in black ‘CCXXVII – 23’ at the bottom right.

Matthew Imms
November 2015

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