Joseph Mallord William Turner

Margate: The Great Beach with Droit House, the Pier and Lighthouse, Jarvis’s Landing Place, and a Smoking Steamer


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 242 × 301 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 173

Display caption

This scene of a steam-boat off the coast may show the seaside resort of Margate. The town was accessible by steam-boat, and was favoured by Londoners. Turner often used it as a base from which to explore the Kentish coast.

Turner retained an affection for Margate throughout his life. As a boy he had stayed in the town with relatives of his mother and in later life he rented rooms there, overlooking the harbour and pier.

Gallery label, February 2004

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Catalogue entry

As recognised by David Blayney Brown,1 this evocative view is to the west over Margate’s Great Beach past the jetty of Jarvis’s Landing Place to the stone pier, with Droit House and the lighthouse beyond, silhouetted against a pearly afternoon sky. Out in the Thames Estuary, a good deal of smoke is being blown by an east wind from the funnel of a steamer which has perhaps just departed for London, leaving the pale forms of a horse and rider and another figure alone on the beach.
The view may be directly from Mrs Booth’s house on Bank Side, and Ian Warrell has suggested Turner ‘may have worked directly from nature. The barely diluted smear of paint used to describe the trailing smoke from the steamer preserves the appearance of having been rapidly applied in order to catch a fleeting impression.’2 Compare the melancholy mood in a late watercolour of Margate at sunset (Tate N05239), and in the painting The New Moon; or, ‘I’ve lost My Boat, You shan’t have Your Hoop’, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1840 (Tate N00526).3
See Brown 1987, p.10.
Warrell 1993, p.311, and Warrell 1994, p.248.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.238 no.386, pl.389 (colour).
Blank; inscribed in pencil ‘ccclxiv.’ bottom right; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CCCLXIV – 173’ towards bottom right.

Matthew Imms
August 2016

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