This colour sketch could relate to the finished watercolour Fishing Boats on Folkestone Beach of around 1828 (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin). Turner scholar Eric Shanes proposes that the Dublin drawing was most probably produced at an earlier date for the Ports of England series, though no view of this location was finalised for the project.1 The Dublin watercolour was executed using a stippling technique, a notable feature of all the Ports works, and is almost identical in size to the design for Sidmouth of that series. The present preparatory study is closest in composition to the Dublin watercolour, though it encompasses more of the coast than the final design.
The study is roughly wrought in vivid watercolour wash. Turner employs the three primary colours (red for the foreground incident, blue for the sky, and yellow for the headland) interspersed with areas of unpainted paper. The sea, for example, is largely left bare, highlighted sparingly with blue. The windmill atop the closest headland is also pictured in negative, silhouetted in reverse against the blue sky.
Wash is applied in swift gestural strokes and daubs of the brush. Specific forms such as boats or buildings are loosely implied in dashes of wash. This is particularly apparent in the rather amorphous assemblage of short dashes and daubs of red wash in the foreground, perhaps some form of shorthand for boats or figures.
A tab of about twenty millimetres in length and of the same white wove paper as the main drawing is at the top of the sheet. It has been painted with wash in a similar colour range and handling to the main drawing. The tab appears to be a fold meaning that the present drawing was executed on a larger sheet of paper. The drawing has also discoloured, probably from overexposure.
The sheet is stamped in black with the Turner Bequest monogram at top right and with ‘CCIII–C’ at bottom right and inscribed in pencil ‘33 ?L’ at centre left.