Joseph Mallord William Turner

Plymouth Sound with Drake’s Island


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 95 × 157 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXXI 9

Catalogue entry

Eric Shanes has identified this sketch from Devil’s Point, made with the page turned horizontally, as the source for the left-hand half of the untraced watercolour Plymouth Sound of about 1813,1 engraved in 1815 for The Rivers of Devon, but not published until 1823 (Tate impressions: Tate T06010, T05786; see the concordance of the series in the Introduction to the 1813 West Country tour).2 Drake’s Island and the hills beyond the Sound to the south-east appear in the engraved composition, but only the tip of the shore to the left is incorporated, while the right-hand half was based on the drawing on folio 10 recto (D09227). It is unusual for Turner to use two consecutive pages in a ‘portrait’-format sketchbook turned sideways to record a wide view of a single scene, his usual practice being to use a double-page spread in a ‘landscape’-format book, but presumably he did not have one to hand.
The drawing made nearby on folio 8 recto (D09225) was the basis of a companion Rivers of Devon design showing Plymouth Citadel. The subjects as far as folio 127 recto (D09358) are all identified or presumed sites within a few miles in and around Plymouth, suggesting a series of fairly short excursions.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.350 no.441; unspecified ‘drawings of the Sound’ in this sketchbook ‘probably used for’ no.441 are mentioned ibid., under no.440.
Shanes 1981, p.43, and 1990, p.263.

Matthew Imms
April 2014

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