Joseph Mallord William Turner

Rochester from the Northern Bank of the River Medway


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 112 × 190 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCIX 18 a

Catalogue entry

The predominant drawing on this page displays a view of Rochester from the northern bank of the River Medway. The handling is detailed and the pencil hard. Lines are finely considered and windows in the castle and waterfront buildings meticulously recorded.
As recognised by Finberg, this page is one of four preparatory studies in the present sketchbook for the watercolour Rochester, on the River Medway of 1822 (Tate D18156; Turner Bequest CCVIII W),1 which was engraved by Thomas Lupton for the Rivers of England series and published in January 1824 (Tate impressions T06370, T04796–T04798).2 Ian Warrell groups this page alongside folios 10 recto, 18 recto, and 19 recto (D17381, D17394, D17396) as those which directly influenced the finished composition.3
At top left, made with the sketchbook turned upside down according to its foliation, Turner observes a group of men, seemingly engaged inside a small boat. The three men at right appear seated, hauling in ropes or nets with their arms extended over the side of the vessel. Further left, one or perhaps two additional figures can be seen standing up. The boat itself is largely unarticulated.
Also evident on this sheet is a small section of the drawing which dominates the facing page on folio 19 recto (D17396). For an explanation of the expansive scene, which again describes Rochester, see the entry for that page. Composed with the sketchbook inverted according to foliation, the section visible here is close to the gutter and describes small fishing boats and harbour buildings on the waterfront.
Peter Bower reproduces an image of this page to illustrate the quality and nature of the Thin Post wove writing paper and watermarks in Turner’s Post Octavo notebooks, in this case produced by Richard Barnard of Hollingbourne.4 For further information see the Technical Notes in the Introduction to this sketchbook. For more expansive discussion about critical attitudes towards this and the other preparatory sketches of Rochester, see the entry for folio 18 recto (D17394).
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.385 no.735, reproduced.
Finberg 1909, I, p.608.
Warrell 1991, p.31.
Bower 1999, pp.39–40.

Maud Whatley
January 2016

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