Joseph Mallord William Turner

?The Eddystone Lighthouse in a Storm by Daylight


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 181 × 228 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXXVII 39

Display caption

The lighthouse has generally been identified as that guarding the rocks off Plymouth, the Eddystone light, which Turner may have visited during his tour of Devon in 1813. Almost a decade later, he produced a watercolour of the Eddystone Lighthouse, which has some of the turbulence of this study. However, this preliminary idea could also have served as the basis for his 1818 view of the Bell Rock Lighthouse on the Firth of Tay in Scotland. Turner had to borrow another artist's sketches in order to complete this second subject, as he had not seen it for himself. This study is one of three in which Turner explored the visual potential of the lighthouse motif when set against different nocturnal effects.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Along with watercolours on folios 41 recto and 42 recto (D10258, D10260; CXXXVII 40, 41) this study perhaps represents the Eddystone Lighthouse, off Plymouth, which Turner may have visited in 1813, producing a finished watercolour of it at night by 1817. There is a possibly related watercolour of an empty sea and sky on folio 39 verso opposite (D10256; CXXXVII 38).
This dynamic study has been described as ‘of a freedom normally associated with the late 1810s, or even later’,1 but it is here dated to about the former year, assuming Turner visited the lighthouse then and represents it here. There is a fuller discussion under D10258.
The composition is inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliated sequence.
Butlin, Wilton and Gage 1974, p.66.

Matthew Imms
May 2011

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