Joseph Mallord William Turner

Great Yarmouth and the Coast Near Cromer or Happisburgh; and Sunrise Studies


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 187 × 114 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CC 2 a

Catalogue entry

Turner continued his journey north (see folio 1 verso; D17509) with more sketches of the Norfolk coast on this page which is turned to the right. At the top are three sketches of ‘Yarmouth Roads’, the second one continuing from the right side of the first. In addition to the pier and the spire of St Nicholas Church, the coast is punctuated at close intervals with windmills. Turner looks back over his shoulder at Great Yarmouth from the north for his third sketch, this time including only the most notable landmarks: the church, the pier and the Norfolk Naval Pillar. See folio 2 (D17510) for further sketches of Great Yarmouth and more information.
The sketch at the centre of the page poses a problem because it carries two inscriptions: ‘Haseburg’ (Happisburgh) and ‘Cromer’. It cannot be both places as they are about twelve miles apart, and it is unlikely to be any of the small villages or hamlets in between. The three towers in the sketch do not resolve the issue as both Happisburgh and Cromer have tall church towers and while Happisburgh had two lighthouses to the east of the church, Cromer had a lighthouse in Foulness to the east and a number or possible churches beyond that at Overstand or Sidestand that could account for the third structure. Perhaps Turner himself did not know which he was drawing so wrote two possibilities. Of the two, Cromer is perhaps the more likely. It is a larger town and more significant landmark which was depicted by artists from the Norwich School. It also has a cliff to the north that falls away in the same manner as the one at the right of the drawing. Turner, however, did take an interest in Happisburgh, painting it around 1830: Harborough Sands, circa 1830 (private collection).1
The sketches at the bottom half of this page belong to a sequence of studies of a sunrise (continued on folio 3; D17512), although the upper sketch of the two in the present page may in fact show a sunset, as the disc of the sun is seen between horizontal layers of different coloured cloud: ‘Red Gold’, ‘Red Purple’, and ‘yellow’, with a ‘grey’ patch in the top left of the sketch, above the ‘land’. At the bottom of the page is the first sketch that Ruskin described as ‘Memoranda of sunrise’, showing just the top of the sun as it first appeared above the horizon of the sea, with clouds above. These two pages were chosen by Ruskin for exhibition as ‘good examples of his [Turner’s] mode of studying skies’, and more generally as examples of leaves from Turner’s ‘smaller note-books, on which [...] his peculiar eminence as a painter chiefly depended’:
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.405 no.898.
E.T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn (eds.), Library Edition: The Works of John Ruskin: Volume XIII: Turner: The Harbours of England; Catalogues and Notes, London 1904, p.300.

Thomas Ardill
September 2008

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