Joseph Mallord William Turner

Scenes at Chatham and Upnor Castle, on 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 55

Catalogue entry

As identified by Finberg, this page comprises a trio of scenes along the River Medway.1 A view of Chatham, as observed from a boat in the water, is described across the top of the sheet. A military fort marks the horizon, on the crest of a hill in the distance at left. This may be Fort Amherst, which supplied the high viewpoint for Chatham, from Fort Pitt of about 1830 (private collection)2 engraved in 1832 as part of the ambitious Picturesque Views in England and Wales project of the 1820s and 1830s (Tate impression: T04588). The roofs of buildings which line the harbour as it stretches out towards the right form a jagged band across the foreground. These are interrupted only by interjections from briefly dashed, vertical lines; perhaps the masts of light craft close to the shore. Towards the right a short tower, or spire, stands out against the blank sky. This might belong to the old church of St Mary, which underwent complete remodelling during the 1880s.3 The church features in many of the drawings of Chatham in this sketchbook, a list of which can be found in the entry for folio 51 recto (D17450). An inland perspective of the church is also included at bottom right in the Chatham, from Fort Pitt composition. For an indication of those pages in the present book which describe scenes at Chatham, see the entry for folio 22 recto (D17402).
The drawing immediately below the description of Chatham Dockyards shows Upnor Castle on the opposite bank of the river, viewed by Turner from a south-eastern perspective. The Castle itself is seen in profile at centre, its ramparts jutting out into the water towards the right. Some light craft occupy the water, and the left side of the prospect is crammed with shaded trees and crisp, angular houses. These latter details are partially evident in the watercolour Castle Upnor, Kent painted in around 1831–2 (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester)4 and engraved in 1833 for the England and Wales series (Tate impression: T06102). Turner looks towards the west in the finished watercolour, but includes beyond the Castle a hint of the local landscape as explored on this page. For a comprehensive list of studies made of Upnor Castle in this sketchbook, and a more detailed examination of their relationship to the finished watercolour from the early 1830s, see the entry for folio 87 verso (D17501).

Maud Whatley
January 2016

Finberg 1909, I, p.609.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.398 no.838.
Eric Shanes, Turner’s Picturesque Views in England and Wales 1825–1838, London 1979, p.153 under no.94.
Wilton 1979, p.399 no.847, reproduced.

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