Joseph Mallord William Turner

?Hastings, with Boats on the Beach


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Pen and ink on paper
Support: 125 × 202 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXVII 32

Catalogue entry

In addition to the notes on colour and shadows scattered across the sketch, there is a lengthy, rather scrawled note running across the top of the page:
Sky darker Purples strong rolling clouds warm Mdle. Hill a warm lighter orange green | rocks warm ochre purple shadow on which the fishing relieved brilliant orpiments sails ex | cepting the [sketch of upright sail] white, beautifuly [sic] reflected in the sand with the sky w white figures streaming | down1
Orpiment is a bright yellow pigment derived from the mineral arsenic trisulphide;2 Turner occasionally uses the word as a colour note in other sketchbooks.3
It has been observed that Turner’s increasingly inaccurate depictions of Scarborough, North Yorkshire with a ‘sheer cliff’, for example the watercolour Scarborough Town and Castle: Morning, Boys Catching Crabs, exhibited in 1811 (Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide),4 has caused various other Turner Bequest drawings to be identified as Scarborough, leading to a tentative earlier identification of the drawings in the present sketchbook (see also D09011, D09013; CXXVII 33, 34) as Dover subjects instead.5 It is suggested here that they show Hastings, Sussex (compare for example the view in the Hastings sketchbook, Tate D10371; Turner Bequest CXXXIX 22a); there are various firmly identified Sussex views in the present book, as noted in the Introduction.
Of this and the similar study (D09011; CXXVII 33) exhibited with it in the 1850s, Ruskin wrote:
I hope the reader observes the steady perseverance of the painter in always sketching for information, and not for the sketches’ sake. The inscriptions on these outlines do not improve their effect, but they preserve the important facts. Some words I must leave to the deciphering of the ingenious reader; but this much is legible: “Sky darkish purple; rolling clouds, warm; [hill] a warm lighter orange green; rocks, warm ochre; purple shadow [in which the fishing relieved]; brilliant orpiment sails, excepting the (hieroglyphic for upright sail) white, beautifully reflected in the sand, with the sky and white figures streaming down ...”
Following Finberg 1909, I, p.359, with slight variations.
Oxford English Dictionary, accessed 15 December 2009,
See Townsend 1992, p.9 for instances.
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, p.528 no.360, pl.122 (colour).
Hill, Warburton, Tussey and others 1980, p.16.
Catalogue of the Sketches and Drawings by J.M.W. Turner, R.A. Exhibited in Marlborough House in the Year 1857–8 in Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.258 nos.41, 42.

Matthew Imms
January 2012

Read full Catalogue entry

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