Joseph Mallord William Turner

Scarborough from the South, near Black Rocks


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 117 × 180 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CL 8

Catalogue entry

Turner’s viewpoint here is on the shore at the southerly end of the south bay at Scarborough. The locality is identified as ‘Black Rocks’ by the 1:50,000 Ordnance Survey map, and the location is precisely established by the angles of view of the church, lighthouse and castle tower and their relative positions and more or less equal intervals between them. It is noticeable that from this angle of view Turner has rather compressed the interval between the keep and the southern corner of the castle ward where the wall descends to the harbour, and this has the effect of dramatising the bluntness of the castle headland. The site has been somewhat changed by a cliff slump in 1993, which necessitated the demolition of the Halton Hall Hotel on the cliff top and spewed a large tongue of clay out onto the shore. The shoreline building in the left middle distance is perhaps the remains of an old fortification or lookout tower. Such a building is marked in this area in a 1538 view of Scarborough (British Library, London).1 Perhaps the same lookout tower appears in another sketch in the present sketchbook (D11914; Turner Bequest CL 1) and a similar detached rock is seen from the opposite direction in a further sketch (D11930; Turner Bequest CL 13).
Finberg made a connection between this sketch and a finished watercolour of Scarborough dated 1818 (private collection).2 It provides the most detailed topographical study of the locality, but the main elements are seen from a slightly more distant viewpoint and in a closer relation to the watercolour in a sketch in the Scarborough 2 sketchbook (Tate D11971; Turner Bequest CLI 17a)
BL MS Cotton AUG 1, ii, fol.1.
Wilton 1979, p.360 no.529.

David Hill
September 2008

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