Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sketches of Shipping with Harbour Beyond ?Calais; Fisherwomen Looking for Bait ?on Calais Sands


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 78 × 118 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXVI 227 a

Catalogue entry

At the uppermost register is a view of fishing boats sailing off the coast with a harbour beyond. The profile of the distant harbour resembles Calais, with the lighthouse (the Tour de Guet) and tower of the Hotel de Ville at centre. Turner has inscribed ‘sand’ on a spit close to the fishing vessels.
With the sketchbook orientated to landscape, Turner records what appears to be some fishing or harbour machinery and a separate jotting of a group of ‘fisherwomen digging for [bait or crabs]’. The women most probably search for crustacea such as sand crabs traditionally used to bait fish. Turner scholars Evelyn Joll and Martin Butlin write that the fisherwomen in this diminutive sketch are similar to those depicted in the oil painting Calais Sands, Low Water, Poissards Collecting Bait, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1830.1 See also Tate D24880; Turner Bequest CCLX 44: a watercolour and gouache drawings of ‘fishers getting bait’.

Alice Rylance-Watson
June 2014

Butlin and Joll 1984, p.188 no.334; see also Butlin, Wilton and Gage 1974, p.141 no.508.

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