Joseph Mallord William Turner

Land’s End: Dr Syntax’s Head from Dr Johnson’s Head


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 140 × 215 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXV 50

Catalogue entry

The view is north to Dr Syntax’s Head and the Peal from Dr Johnson’s Head, above which the Lands’ End Hotel now stands. Trevescan Cliff rises to the right, where the ‘First and Last House in England’ overlooks the sea (Land’s End famously being the most westerly point in the country, although not quite of Great Britain). On the implied horizon line are the Brisons rocks off Cape Cornwall.
Andrew Wilton has noted this sketch as the basis for the untraced watercolour Land’s End, Cornwall: Approaching Thunderstorm of about 1813,1 engraved in 1814 for Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England2 (see the concordance of the series in the 1811 tour introduction; Tate impressions: T04373, T04374, T05426–T05433, T05963), with a rough sea and lightning over the Brisons. The composition is comparable with one of William Daniell’s aquatints of the scene for his later Voyage Round Great Britain (Tate impression: T03024).
This sketch and the Land’s End view on folio 23 recto (D08942; CXXV 51, bound as CXXV a 23), now part of the Cornwall and Devon sketchbook, are noted at the end of Finberg’s 1909 Inventory listing for the Ivy Bridge to Penzance sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest CXXV) as two ‘extra leaves’: ‘The book to which they belong does not appear to be in the collection. They are therefore placed here for convenience of reference.’3 He numbered them CXXV 50 and 51, apparently because Ruskin had already inscribed them with the same Arabic numbers.
As discussed in the introduction, all the pages of the present ‘sketchbook’ appear to have originally been loose sheets, and most are not recorded in Finberg’s Inventory. He subsequently noted this subject again as ‘Lands End, Cornwall. (Entered as p.50. CXXV.)’ in a manuscript listing of the whole sketchbook,4 while C.F. Bell described it in his own notes simply as ‘Lands End’.5 There are other views of Land’s End and the adjacent coast on the rectos of folios 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 66 and 67 (D41300–D41305, D41348, D41349). An inscription on folio 3 recto (D41278) may refer to nearby Whitesand Bay, although its relevance to the sketch on that page is uncertain.
Wilton 1979, p.351 no.447.
Ibid., under no.447; see also Shanes 1981, p.152.
Finberg 1909, I, p.356.
A.J. Finberg, MS addenda, [circa 1928–39], tipped into a copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, vol.I, opposite p.356, as CXXV(a) 8.
C.F. Bell, MS addenda, [after 1928], tipped into a copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, vol.I, p.356A, as CXXVa 22.

Matthew Imms
July 2011

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