Joseph Mallord William Turner

St Michael’s Mount from near Marazion


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 295 x 312 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 390

Display caption

This watercolour represents the view looking westwards across Mount's Bay at sunset. The general lightness of tone resulted from Turner having initially drawn the scene fairly boldly in watercolour, and then having submerged the entire sheet in water, probably in a bucket. The submersion removed some colours, diffused others and generally lightened the tones, thus creating outstanding subtelties of colour and tone. The areas of intense blue in the clouds, and of crimson and yellow around the sun, were added subsequently.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

On the plausible grounds of its similarity to the pencil view in the 1811 Ivy Bridge to Penzance sketchbook (Tate D40816, D08910; Turner Bequest CCXV 30a–31), showing St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall, looking north-west across Mount’s Bay towards Penzance from near Marazion, Eric Shanes has suggested this as a sunset study for a subject for Turner’s Picturesque Views in England and Wales.1 However, as he notes, the later watercolour Mount St Michael, Cornwall of about 1836 (University of Liverpool),2 engraved in 1838 for the Picturesque Views (Tate impressions: T04612, T06129), shows a lower, beach-level view westwards in less clement weather;3 Tate D25195 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 73) is a possible study of the clouds in the 1836 watercolour.
See Tate D25187 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 65), a ‘colour beginning’ for which the present work ‘may have been a preliminary study’,4 and also the introductions to the present subsection of identified subjects and the overall England and Wales ‘colour beginnings’ grouping to which this work has been assigned.
Shanes 1997, pp.23–4, 27, 39, 83, 94, 96, 101, 102, 107.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.403 no.880, reproduced.
See Shanes 1997, p.83.
Shanes 1997, pp.39, 94, 96, 107.
Technical notes:
A large section, 56 x 80 mm, missing from the bottom right-hand corner of the sheet,1 has been made good with similar paper.
The trimmed watermark was evidently ‘J Whatman | Turkey Mill’ in full, followed by a year date. The band of colour at the bottom of the sheet may indicate that Turner worked on a separate composition ‘below’ this one before separating them.2 Eric Shanes notes that the present sheet is of the ‘same’ paper as Tate D25452 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 329),3 another slight study of sea with a low sun, with a skyline of hills lightly indicated in pencil; he tentatively suggests that this might be another St Michael’s Mount view, or a scene on the East Coast of England.4
Shanes has used this work as an case study of Turner’s ‘washing out’ technique, whereby he would ‘fairly boldly and roughly’ indicate the main forms of the composition before immersing the sheet in water, blending and lightening the tones as a basis for a series of processes including further washes and stippling, achieving ‘outstanding subtleties of colour and tone’.5
As reproduced in Shanes 1997, p.39.
See ibid., p.40.
Ibid., pp.101, 102
Ibid., p.106; see also pp.94, 95, 101, 102.
Ibid., p.40; see also pp.23–4, 27.

Matthew Imms
March 2013

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