Joseph Mallord William Turner

St Mawes Harbour


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 75 x 117 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXIII 133

Catalogue entry

The first short word of Turner’s inscription is partly obscured by the stamped Turner Bequest number.
Eric Shanes has noted this sketch as a source for the watercolour St Mawes, Cornwall of about 1823 (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven),1 engraved in 1824 for the Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England2 (see the concordance of the series in the 1811 tour introduction). Elsewhere, Shanes also lists it as the basis of a second, untraced watercolour with the same title, of about 1828,3 engraved in 1830 for the later series Picturesque Views in England and Wales; he describes the relationship as ‘very slight’4 although the main elements of topography and activity seen in both versions are traceable to the ‘tiny rough sketch’.5
Having been ‘very attracted’6 to the scene, Turner had initially painted a version in oils, St Mawes in the Pilchard Season, which he exhibited at his gallery in 1812 (Tate N00484).7 Complete with figures and a note about ‘fish’, the present drawing was made within the harbour itself, with a consequent lateral compression of the relationship of the town and the two castles to the south-west, followed in the oil and England and Wales versions. Pilchard fishing is mentioned in Turner’s verses on folio 138 verso (D08624; CXXIII 135a).8
Shanes notes a larger, more detailed drawing of St Mawes in the Ivy Bridge to Penzance sketchbook (Tate D08909; Turner Bequest CXXV 30, incorrectly identified by Finberg as ‘Falmouth Harbour’),9 made from a viewpoint on the shore curving south-east from St Mawes and including the pier enclosing the harbour in the middle distance, as an additional source for the Southern Coast watercolour; in this version the fish and figures noted on the quay in the present drawing are transferred to the beach in the foreground.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.354 no.473, reproduced.
Shanes 1981, p.152, and 1990, pp.64, 283 note 34; see also Smiles 1988, pp.54, 57 note 2, and Wilton and Turner 1990, p.142.
Wilton 1979, p.396 no.823.
Shanes 1979, p.155.
Shanes 1986, p.55.
Shanes 1981, p.27.
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.87 no.123, pl.129, with the present drawing noted, apparently following Finberg, as ‘perhaps St Mawes’; see also the first edition, New Haven and London 1977, p.87 under no.123, and Joll and Butlin 1982, p.101.
As noted in Wilton and Turner 1990, p.143.
Shanes 1981, p.152.
Technical notes:
There is some offsetting in the sky from the ink inscription on folio 135 verso opposite (D08619; CXXIII 132a).

Matthew Imms
June 2011

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