Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study for Ramsgate


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 174 × 248 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 299

Catalogue entry

Finberg writes that this drawing is a study for the design of Ramsgate for the Ports of England series (Tate D18150; Turner Bequest CCVIII Q).1 Several of the Ports watercolours have related studies such as this, in which Turner assembles the primary features of the view ‘as an almost diagrammatic colour structure, and then experiments with the drama implied by contrasting rhythms of juxtaposed ships and curling waves’.2
The principal difference between this study and the finished view is in the compositional arrangement of the shipping. The viewpoint remains the same, featuring the lighthouse to the left and the peripheral walls of the harbour to the right. In the sketch, however, the lighthouse is occluded by a brig, somewhat diminishing its narrative potential as a symbol of maritime safety. By contrast, in the final design, it stands as a beacon unobstructed, compositionally balancing the brig on the right. The red-sailed boat seen in front of the brig in the sketch has also been removed for the compositional clarity. It seems that in the present sketch Turner may have been toying with including the triangular peak of the swell below the harbour walls at the right; a few inchoate flicks of wash appear to vaguely mark out this bold compositional feature.
This drawing was taken on the same large sheet as the study for the Ports of England design of Sheerness (Tate D25389; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 266). There is a further colour beginning of a bay on the coast with a stormy sky which is also thought to be a preparatory work for Ramsgate (Tate D25405; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 282). See also the view of Ramsgate produced for the Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England series (Tate impressions T05232–T05235, T04412, T04413, T05991).3
For other of Turner’s sketches of Ramsgate see the Richmond Hill; Hastings to Margate sketchbook (Tate D10451, D10452–D10455, D10460, D10578, D10583–D10585; Turner Bequest CXL 22a, 23–24a, 27, 86, 89–90). See also the Gravesend and Margate sketchbook of about 1832 (Tate D27332–D27333, D27336–D27340, D27343; Turner Bequest CCLXXIX 35a, 36, 37a–39a, 41). See finally the Kent sketchbook of about 1845–6 (Tate D35826–D35827, D35834; Turner Bequest CCCLXIII 38a, 39, 42a).

Alice Rylance-Watson
March 2013

Finberg 1909, II, p.837.
Warrell 1991, p.35, no.18.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.387, no.474.

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