Joseph Mallord William Turner

Swanage Harbour


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 170 × 209 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXIV 14

Catalogue entry

Turner’s view is westwards along the foreshore of the harbour, from about the same point at which he drew the view north across the bay on folio 13 recto (D08820), near the later entrance to Swanage’s Victorian pier. The town’s original, short stone pier is indicated to the right, with the square tower of St Mary’s Church above it, about half a mile inland.
The old centre and harbour of Swanage have been largely rebuilt. Although one or two old inns and the prominent Royal Victoria Apartments (see folios 12 recto and 15 verso; D08819, D08822) survive by the harbour, none of the buildings in the middle distance is readily identifiable. The church is no longer visible from this point, hidden by rows of Victorian shops and houses, and the haphazard shoreline in the foreground (then used for stacks or ‘bankers’1 of quarried Purbeck stone ready for transportation by sea to London and elsewhere) has been built over with a broad stone quay. Despite drawing it here, Turner claimed that Swanage ‘can[’]t boast a pier’ to support the shipping of stone in his topographical verses in the Devonshire Coast, No.1 sketchbook (Tate D08483; Turner Bequest CXXIII 60a).
There is a distant view of the harbour from the beach to the north on folio 15 verso (D08822), and there are views from beyond the town on folios 11 recto and 12 recto (D08818, D08819).
See David Lewer and Dennis Smale, Swanage Past, revised ed., Chichester 2004, p.51.
Blank, save for inscriptions by John Ruskin in red ink ‘642’ top right and ‘35’ bottom left, both upside down.

Matthew Imms
February 2011

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