Joseph Mallord William Turner

?Sunset off Margate Pier


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 257 × 367 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 231

Display caption

Throughout his life Turner peppered
his sketchbooks with notes of striking sunrises and sunsets, generally in pencil rather than watercolour. Despite their apparent immediacy, many of his watercolours were actually painted
in the studio. Turner is supposed to
have preferred sunrises as they allowed him more time to observe a greater range of effects. However, the sunsets in several of his major paintings have encouraged us to think chiefly of 'Turner Sunsets'.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

Finberg equivocated as to whether this is a sunset or sunrise subject.1 It has been exhibited as a possible Margate view at sunrise,2 although if the structure on the left is Margate’s stone pier and Droit House and/or the lighthouse, seen from the Great Beach, the view is to the west and may show a summer sunset; compare Tate D24640 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 75).
If recalled from memory or created as a general evocation of such a scene with the topography secondary to the effect, a summer dawn is a possibility even while still evoking Margate, especially given Turner’s propensity for compressing wide, panoramic vistas into a conventionally proportioned composition. For more on the likely Margate setting, see the Introduction to this subsection.
See Finberg 1909, II, p.1191.
See Poznanskaya and others 2008, p.155, and Fan Di’an and others 2009, p.139.
Blank; inscribed by ?John Ruskin in pencil ‘AB 79 P | O’ top left, upside down; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CCCLXIV – 231’ bottom right.

Matthew Imms
August 2016

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