Joseph Mallord William Turner

Two Sketches of Calais, France, from the Harbour; Also Studies of Figures and Horses


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Support: 115 × 94 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCIII 103

Catalogue entry

The two pen and ink sketches on this page depict variant views of the harbour at Calais. It was from here that Turner caught the boat back to Dover at the end of his six month tour of Italy, arriving back in London on 1 February 1820. The uppermost study looks southward from the port to the town, with ships docked beside the quayside and the Tour de Guet and tower of the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall) visible in the left-hand background. The lower vista meanwhile appears to include a lighthouse on the far right-hand side. These views represent the most detailed drawings within the Remarks (Italy) sketchbook, and are of particular interest because it was not the first time that the artist had seen and drawn Calais. He had first passed through in 1802 and a number of sketches can be found in the Calais Pier sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest LXXXI), and particularly the Small Calais Pier sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest LXXI). Later, during the 1820s, Turner planned an unrealised project to depict the principal Channel ports, and also made a sequence of studies in pen and ink on blue paper (see for example Tate D24949; Turner Bequest CCLX 113).1 Further sketches dating from 1820 can be found on folios 104 verso and 105 (D16885–D16886; Turner Bequest CXCIII 103a–104).
Also on this page are some pencil studies of horses in harness, as well as men and women in contemporary French costume. As was his custom, Turner has annotated the sketches with notes concerning colour.

Nicola Moorby
March 2011

See Ian Warrell, ‘Calais’, in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann (eds.), The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, pp.37–8.

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