Joseph Mallord William Turner

Fortifications at the Entrance of Fowey Harbour

1811

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 166 x 208 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D08889
Turner Bequest CXXV 18 a

Catalogue entry

The view is towards the sea to the south along the rocky shore of the Fowey Estuary, south of Fowey itself. St Catherine’s Castle, an artillery fort dating from about the 1530s,1 is seen above St Catherine’s Point in the distance. Towards the right, the nearer tower is Foweys’s blockhouse, built around 1380 to form a pair with a similar structure on the opposite bank at Polruan, between which a chain could be raised to prevent hostile shipping entering the harbour.2 The drawing continues half-way across folio 20 recto opposite (D08890; CXXV 19), where the other blockhouse is seen to the south-west. While it and the castle survive reasonably intact, little remains of the Fowey blockhouse beyond some ragged stonework and an archway jutting from the cliff; modern houses overlook the estuary from above.
Finberg observed that the double-page sketch is the basis of the watercolour Entrance of Fowey Harbour, Cornwall of about 1817 (private collection),3 engraved in 1820 for the Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England4 (see the concordance of the series in the 1811 tour introduction). Eric Shanes has also noted Turner’s use of the same sketch for his watercolour of the Entrance to Fowey Harbour, Cornwall of about 1827 (Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts),5 engraved in 1829 for the series Picturesque Views in England and Wales.6 The viewpoints are similar, but enlivened by contrasting conditions: in the Southern Coast design the tower on the right is silhouetted against a bright if blustery sky; in the England and Wales version, the tower is brightly lit against storm clouds and shipwrecked sailors struggle to reach the shore in the foreground.
There are numerous views of Fowey in the contemporary Devonshire Coast No.1 sketchbook; see under Tate D08371 (Turner Bequest CXXIII 5a).
1
See [Adèle Campbell (ed.)], Heritage Unlocked: Guide to Free [English Heritage] Sites in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, London 2004, pp.42–5.
2
See ‘Polruan Blockhouse’, Fowey.co.uk, accessed 3 February 2011, http://www.fowey.co.uk/site/activities-and-attractions/polruan-blockhouse-p708123.
3
Wilton 1979, p.353 no.466, as untraced; reproduced in Shanes 1991, p.58.
4
Finberg 1909, I, p.355; see also Wilton 1979, p.353; Shanes 1981, p.152 and 1990, p.266; and Shanes 1991, p.58.
5
Wilton 1979, p.393 no.801, reproduced.
6
Shanes 1979, p.155, and 1990 pp.178, 285 note 127.
Technical notes:
The top right corner has been made good where a crease along the right-hand edge had resulted in a loss.

Matthew Imms
February 2011

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