This study has been worked up to suggest the chiaroscuro effect of strong light, employing somewhat disconnected areas of muted colour without underlying pencil work. Finberg suggested it shows Mount Edgcumbe,1 the peninsula across the Sound south-west of Plymouth, which was frequently drawn by Turner on his 1811, 1813 and 1814 visits to the area and depicted in the distance in Mount Edgecomb, Devonshire, an untraced watercolour of about 18182 engraved in 1826 for the Southern Coast scheme (see the Introduction to this section; Tate impressions: T05401, T04423, T05999).
Eric Shanes noted that the present view, ‘Near Plymouth’, is based on a pencil drawing in the Plymouth, Hamoaze sketchbook (Tate D09229; Turner Bequest CXXXI 12), made in 1813 rather than 1811 as he implies in suggesting a date for the present work.3 Finberg called that drawing ‘In Plymouth Sound’,4 and in its entry in this catalogue the present author has suggested it is likely to show Turnchapel, on the southern shore of the Cattewater, which leads into the Sound south-east of Plymouth. A Southern Coast watercolour of about 1816, Plymouth, with Mount Batten (Victoria and Albert Museum, London),5 shows the view from Turnchapel in the opposite direction, and was engraved in 1817 (Tate impressions: T04388, T05396–T05397, T05973, T05785).
While the profile of the hill with its skyline of trees in the 1813 drawing has been followed closely here, as has the contre-jour effect of its pencil shading, the cluster of moored craft with furled sails noted on the spot have been replaced by reserved areas against the shady woods to suggest the sunlit sails of a passing boat or boats, while in the distance, introducing a further element of tonal contrast, is the silhouette of a hull under construction; compare Teignmouth, Devonshire, a watercolour of about 1813 (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven),6 engraved for the Southern Coast in 1815 (Tate impressions: T04380, T05376–T05384, T05968).