Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study for ‘Calais Pier, with French Poissards Preparing for Sea: An English Packet Arriving’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Chalk on paper
Support: 436 × 271 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXXXI 102

Catalogue entry

Inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation, the subject is continued on folio 53 recto opposite (D05005; Turner Bequest LXXXI 103), which was already half torn away, so that the study was of necessity continued on the next page again, folio 54 recto (D05007; Turner Bequest LXXXI 105).
Another study for the painting, Calais Pier, with French Poissards Preparing for Sea: An English Packet Arriving, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1803 (National Gallery, London),1 is on folios 30 verso–31 recto (D04960–D04961; Turner Bequest LXXXI 58–59). The present drawing includes the principal elements of the large canvas: the packet boat is seen clearly in view to the left, in the centre the fishing boat puts off from the pier, which creates a firm perspective receding into the picture space on the extreme right.
The final design is more complicated, however: most importantly the centre of the space is occupied by a boat with a white sail that intervenes between the packet boat and the fishing boat in the foreground. This white–sailed boat partly obscures the packet, creating the kind of visual confusion that Turner relished; compare folios 48 verso–49 recto (D04996–D04997; Turner Bequest LXXXI 94–95), and see folios 74 verso and 77 recto (D05048, D05053; Turner Bequest LXXXI 146, 151).

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.37–8 no.48, pl.58 (colour).

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