On loan

ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum (Aarhus, Denmark): Turner Watercolours: Sun is God

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour and graphite on paper
Support: 352 × 518 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 44

Display caption

This watercolour may be a view of Margate, as the pencil lines seem to suggest the town's cliffs and headland, and the letter 'M' is inscribed at the top of the sheet. It is an example of Turner's 'colour beginnings': sketches he made to work out compositions and to experiment with different ways of using watercolour. Turner often painted Margate, and said that the loveliest skies are 'in the Isle of Thanet'. The engravings of Margate shown here were made after the finished watercolour, which is now at the Yale Centre for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

Eric Shanes has compared the distant profile of Margate, Kent, from the west, articulated in pencil and occupying the right-hand half of the horizon of this loose, luminous and ‘marvellously silvery’1 colour study, with that shown in the watercolour Margate from the Sea, Whiting Fishing of 1822 (private collection),2 engraved in 1825 as Sun-Rise. Whiting Fishing at Margate for Turner’s Marine Views (Tate impression: T06655).3 Turner’s many views of Margate include two watercolours, looking in a similar direction from the beach: one, of about 1822 (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven)4 was engraved in 1824 for the Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast; the other, of about 1825 (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford),5 engraved in 1828 for the Ports of England, but not published until the 1856 Harbours of England.
Another watercolour, Margate of about 1830 (Herbert Art Gallery, Coventry),6 was engraved in 1832 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impressions: T04590–T04592, T06098). That view shows a prominent foreground of fields and trees, some way from the sea, although the fundamental prospect eastwards across to the distant harbour and cliffs is much the same. Shanes has suggested that the current study, with its ‘diffused and enormously subtle interminglings’,7 is too small to be a variant of or study for the Marine Views design, and was perhaps an alternative idea for England and Wales.8 Another colour study, rather more tentatively linked with Margate, is Tate D25203 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 81).
See also the introductions to the present subsection of identified subjects and the overall England and Wales ‘colour beginnings’ grouping to which this work has been assigned.
Shanes 1997, p.19.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.358 no.507.
Shanes 1997, p.69.
Wilton 1979, p.353 no.470, reproduced.
Ibid., pp.387–8 no.757, reproduced.
Ibid., p.398 no.839, reproduced.
Shanes 1997, p.25; see also p.69, 92 note 53.1.
Ibid., p.69; see also pp.19, 95, 99.
Blank, save for inscriptions: in pencil ‘AB 92 P’ top left, upside down; and in pencil ‘CCLXIII 44’ bottom right.
The ‘AB’ number corresponds with the endorsement on one of the parcels of works sorted by John Ruskin during his survey of the Turner Bequest, in this case classified by him as ‘Colour effects. Valueless’.1

Matthew Imms
March 2013

Transcribed in Finberg 1909, II, p.814.

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