Joseph Mallord William Turner

Ilfracombe from the West


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 142 × 215 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXV a 37

Catalogue entry

This vigorous sketch of Ilfracombe shows the view eastwards from the vicinity of what is now Granville Road, looking past Capstone Hill on the left to the harbour, indicated by a small cluster of masts to the right of St Nicholas’s Chapel, perched on Lantern Hill. Hillsborough and the North Devon coast towards Combe Martin rise on the far side. The slopes on the right are now the site of the twin truncated cones of the Landmark Theatre.
Eric Shanes has noted this sketch in connection with the watercolour Ilfracombe, North Devon of about 1813–16 (private collection),1 engraved in 1818 for the Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England (see the concordance of the series in the 1811 tour introduction). He also mentions the studies on the verso of the present leaf and folios 38 recto, 39 recto and 40 recto (D41315–D41318);2 the first three show the town and coast from the opposite direction, as does the present drawing, while D41318 appears not to show Ilfracombe but may represent Bude, on the North Cornish coast.
Other drawings of Ilfracombe and the adjacent coast are on folios 42 recto, 61 recto and verso, 76 recto, 77 recto and 88 verso (D41321, D41342, D41343, D41358, D41359, D41371), and there are contemporary studies in the Devonshire Coast, No.1 sketchbook (Tate D08753, D08755, D08756, D08757; Turner Bequest CXXIII 213a, 214a, 215, 215a) and the Somerset and North Devon sketchbook (Tate D08947; Turner Bequest CXXVI 2). None exactly matches the Southern Coast composition.
As discussed in the introduction, the pages of the present ‘sketchbook’ appear to have originally been loose sheets, and are not recorded in Finberg’s 1909 Inventory of the Bequest, although he subsequently noted the subject as ‘Town on rocky coast’ in a manuscript listing,3 while C.F. Bell described it tentatively in his own notes as ‘Ilfracombe(?)’.4 Figures usually corresponding to Finberg’s MS catalogue page numbers, which differ from Bell’s sequence, are inscribed on the verso of most sheets.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.352 no.462, reproduced.
Shanes 1981, p.152.
A.J. Finberg, MS addenda, [circa 1928–39], tipped into a copy of his A Complete Inventory of the Drawings of the Turner Bequest, London 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, vol.I, opposite p.357, as CXXV(a) 89 Reverse.
C.F. Bell, MS addenda, [after 1928], tipped into a copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, vol.I, p.356B, as CXXVa 37.

Matthew Imms
July 2011

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