Joseph Mallord William Turner

Scenes on the River Medway, between Chatham and Rochester


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

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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 59

Catalogue entry

As identified by Finberg, this page displays drawings made at Chatham, looking northwest along the River Medway towards the distinctive landmarks of Rochester.1
Turner’s closest view of Rochester is evidenced in the middle sketch. It spans the full width of the sheet, and shows the overlapping towers of the Castle and Cathedral towards the right. Various craft are scattered across the river, and one of Chatham’s windmills stands out amongst the rooftops at left. Figures in the small foregrounded boat tend to its sail.
At the top of the page Turner displays a more distant perspective, the tower of Rochester Castle evident on the horizon but diminished in size. An orb, presumably the sun, hangs in the sky towards the left. This suggests an afternoon timeframe for the drawing as the sun moves towards setting in the west. Besides a wealth of vessels displayed on top of the water, Turner pays particular attention here to the rippling reflections they cast on its surface. A pair of lightly indicated lines, one horizontal and one vertical, appear to separate this drawing from the rest of the sheet, although the barrier at right is transgressed and the rendering continued beyond its boundary.
The sketch composed within the bottom half of the page presents a less definitive viewpoint, although a tall spire on the horizon towards the left seems likely to represent a distant view of Rochester Cathedral. Windmills mark the summits of the undulating topography and the river is once again busy with vessels.
For lists of studies in the present sketchbook which describe Chatham and Rochester respectively, see the entries for folios 22 recto and 18 recto (D17402 and D17394).
Finberg 1909, I, p.609.

Maud Whatley
January 2016

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