Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study for ‘Sheerness and the Isle of Sheppey, with the Junction of the Thames and the Medway from the Nore’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Pen and ink on paper
Support: 171 × 262 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XCIII 16

Catalogue entry

Hill observes that this lively drawing ‘gives the impression of having been made in haste and perhaps from a boat’, and certainly Turner took the sketchbook on a trip down the Thames. However, although it contrasts with the studio watercolour study on pseudo folio 11 ( [originally 41], D05838), which may have been partly based on it, it seems to the present writer too poised and studied to be made in this way, and much less rapid and spontaneous than other sketches of shipping on folios 17 verso–18 verso (D05793–D05795). The composition is quite complex, typical of Turner’s Estuary marines, and moreover as Hill observes, ‘the correspondence is very close’ to Sheerness and the Isle of Sheppey, with the Junction of the Thames and the Medway from the Nore exhibited at Turner’s Gallery in 1807 (National Gallery of Art, Washington DC).1
A double-spread drawing in the Calais Pier sketchbook (Tate D04992–D04993; Turner Bequest LXXXI 90–1) possibly related to the same picture has an inscription ‘Do’ (Ditto) that seems intended to repeat another, ‘Study not painted 1805’ (D04994–D04995; Turner Bequest 94–5). If these connections are accepted they would imply that the picture was planned that year and is contemporary with the first use of the present sketchbook. Andrew Kennedy has recently associated a group of Turner’s Sheerness pictures including the Washington Junction of the Thames and the Medway with Turner’s trip at the turn of 1805–6 to see the Victory when she returned from the Battle of Trafalgar.2 However, Turner must often have travelled down-river. (See Sketchbooks and Drawings of Marine and Naval Subjects: the ‘Victory’, the Battle of Trafalgar, Captured Danish Ships and a Review at Portsmouth circa 1803–14).
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.49–50 no.62 (pl.73).
Andrew Kennedy, ‘Sheerness’, in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann eds., The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, p.292.

David Blayney Brown
October 2007

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