Joseph Mallord William Turner

Mount Batten Point across Plymouth Sound


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 192 × 278 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 222

Catalogue entry

Eric Shanes writes that this drawing is a view of Mount Batten Point across Plymouth Sound, related to the Ports of England watercolour design of Catwater, Plymouth (Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, Hobart, Tasmania) or the designs for the Rivers of Devon series: Plymouth Citadel and Plymouth Sound.1 Turner had previously also pictured Mount Batten at Plymouth for the Southern Coast series in around 1816 (Victoria and Albert Museum, London) (see Tate impressions T04388, T05973, T05397).2
Rendered in warm yellow wash, Turner depicts Mount Batten in the distance on the left. The fifteenth-century circular artillery fort can be seen atop it. A whirling, tempestuous sky rendered vigorously in dark blue-grey wash frames the landmark, the sea ominous in charcoal tones beneath it. The atmosphere lightens towards the right of the composition where Turner has applied pale pink-orange wash in translucent layers to offer a contrastive illumination to the sombre rain-heavy cloud. The suggestion of what could be a sail-boat or perhaps the beginning of a landmass is rendered within this area at the right.
Turner produced two views of Plymouth for the Ports of England series: the first, simply entitled Plymouth, of about 1825 and the second, entitled Catwater, Plymouth, a year later. Though neither of these works is in the Turner Bequest, colour studies do remain at Tate. One relates directly to the first of these Ports views (Tate D25272; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 150). The other is a very loose study of Mount Batten tower from a distance (Tate D20217; Turner Bequest CCXX Jb).
Preparatory pencil sketches of the area can be found in the Ivy Bridge to Penzance sketchbook of 1811 (Tate D08866, D08869, D08874, D08878, D08879; Turner Bequest CXXV 2, 4, 9, 11a, 12) and the Plymouth, Hamoaze sketchbook of about 1812 to 1813 (Tate D09249; Turner Bequest CXXXI 30).
Shanes 1997, pp.94 Appendix I ‘Devonshire’, 100 Appendix I ‘Ports of England Series’ and Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.350 nos.440–1.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.352, no.457.
Technical notes:
There are some incidental markings in brown wash at the top right of the verso of the sheet.
Inscribed in pencil ‘CCLXIII 222’ top left.

Alice Rylance-Watson
March 2013

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