Joseph Mallord William Turner

?Study for ‘Scarborough’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 380 × 500 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 27

Catalogue entry

Turner scholars Gerald Wilkinson and Eric Shanes have both proposed that this colour sketch was produced in preparation for the Ports of England view of Scarborough (Tate D18142; Turner Bequest CCVIII I).1 Wilkinson writes, however, that whilst the ‘placing of the shadowed cliff over the dark sea’ corresponds compositionally to the final design, ‘the highly finished drawing for the engraving is only 9 inches wide, against the 19 of this example’.2 Shanes also writes that this colour study may be related to a pencil sketch in the King’s Visit to Edinburgh sketchbook of around 1821 to 1822 (Tate D17650; Turner Bequest CC81 (top)).3
Turner’s colour palette comprised of shades of golden yellow, warm ochre, sea green, teal, and pale terracotta evokes to some extent the tones used in the final Scarborough design. The radiant and diffused sunlight of the present drawing’s sky is certainly matched in the final watercolour. The coastline is more crudely rendered here, bisected diagonally to show the fall of light and dark on the headland. Turner’s colouring is comprised of layers of different coloured wash which achieve a similarly prismatic effect which characterise the finished Ports and Rivers of England watercolours. Regarding composition, the final design incorporates more of the harbour view than this sketch which seems to have been taken at quite close proximity to the cliffs.
There are two other ‘colour beginnings’ depicting Scarborough: the first dates from about 1809 (Tate D17167; Turner Bequest CXCVI C) and the second, offering a more detailed treatment of the landscape and with a colour range more closely related to the finished watercolour, dates from about 1820 (Tate D17166; Turner Bequest CXCVI B).
Wilkinson 1975, p.99 (reproduced in colour) and Shanes 1997, pp.100 Appendix I ‘Ports of England Series’, 101 Appendix I ‘Sea Sketches and Studies’.
Wilkinson 1975, p.99 (reproduced in colour).
Shanes 1997, p.101 Appendix I ‘Sea Sketches and Studies’.
Technical notes:
Some rust-brown coloured wash has been painted on the verso of the sheet at the top left and right which has left an impression on the corresponding areas of the recto.

Alice Rylance-Watson
March 2013

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