Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lulworth Cove and Stair Hole


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 170 × 209 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXIV 22

Catalogue entry

Finberg notes that this sketch is the basis of the untraced watercolour Lulworth Cove, Dorsetshire of about 1812,1 engraved in 1814 for the Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England2 (see the concordance of the series in the 1811 tour introduction).
Turner’s view is from the highest point at the cliff edge west of Stair Hole, looking east beyond it to Lulworth Cove; the vantage point remains accessible by way of a steep climb. The mast on the promontory to the right is also evident in William Daniell’s 1823 aquatint of exactly the same view for his Voyage Round Great Britain, although it is there shown as a gantry with two uprights supporting a single mast on top (Tate impression: T02981). There was still a mast and adjacent coast-guard buildings there in the 1930s,3 but erosion has left only vestigial signs of buildings at that point today.
In discussing Turner’s interest in geology, James Hamilton has described this sketch as characteristic of ‘the maturity of a lifelong engagement with mountain, hill and rock forms that is underpinned by a certain knowledge of ... the dynamics of the folding of the earth.’4 The Lulworth Crumple, a serpentine kink in the strata at the far end of Stair Hole, is shown fairly accurately here, but exaggerated in the watercolour to form a shape like the outline of a giant head and shoulders.
There are other views of the cove on folios 20 recto, 20 verso, 21 recto and 21 verso (D08829–D08832). There are also two drawings in the Vale of Heathfield sketchbook (see under D08830 and D08832), perhaps made on the same occasion. Turner described the geology of the cove in verse in the Devonshire Coast, No.1 sketchbook (Tate D08479; Turner Bequest CXXIII 58).
Wilton 1979, p.351 no.449; long untraced, but for colour reproduction see Sir Charles Holroyd, W[illiam] G[eorge] Rawlinson and Alexander J. Finberg, The Watercolours of J.M.W. Turner, London 1909, pl.IX, reprinted in Shanes 1981, p.[59] and the same author’s Turner’s England 1810–38, London 1990, p.44).
Finberg 1909, I, p.352; see also Wilton 1979, p.351; Shanes 1981, p.152; and Hanley 1992, p.24.
See photograph in Paul Nash, Dorset, Shell Guides, London [1936], p.[13].
Hamilton 1998, p.119.
Blank, save for inscriptions by John Ruskin in red ink ‘27’ top right and ‘649’ bottom left.

Matthew Imms
February 2011

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