Joseph Mallord William Turner

?Hastings, with Figures Sorting Fish 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 33

Catalogue entry

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),1 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 D09010, D09013; CXXVII 32, 34) as Dover subjects instead.2 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 (D09010; CXXVII 32) 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: “... Straw and Fish. Boy with Dogfish. Women sorting.”
Note the intense resolve to have the facts, not only of the place, but of the moment: the boy with his dogfish to be in his own place; nobody else instead of him; and he not to be moved anywhere else.3
There is a landscape study in pencil on the verso (D09012; CXXVII 33v).
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.
Technical notes:
The drawing has darkened owing to prolonged display, except where its edges were protected by the mount. This is a face of one of a few single leaves which, with a greater number of loose bifolio sheets, constitute the so-called Sandycombe and Yorkshire sketchbook. The folded sheets were not bound, but placed inside each other in a sequence which is not entirely recoverable (see the sketchbook’s Introduction for a suggested order).
The Finberg number has been stamped over the same number in pencil.

Matthew Imms
January 2012

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