Joseph Mallord William Turner

Vignette Study; Sea, Sun and Cliffs


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 206 × 175 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 86

Display caption

During the 1830s Turner collaborated with the poet Samuel Rogers to provide illustrations for a volume of poems, a number of which had nautical themes. The designs, such as Tornaro, were highly finished and detailed watercolours in vignette form (small-scale images with no defined border). Nevertheless the emphasis on the effects of colour and light on the sea and sky owe much to Turner’s experimental, loose studies.

Gallery label, July 2008

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

Catalogue entry

This unfinished study of a seascape framed by rocks and cliffs probably relates to the vignette illustrations that Turner produced during the 1820s and 1830s. However, the loose nature of the tranquil coastal scene means that it is too vague to be conclusively linked to any of the finished vignettes. The absence of human activity means that it could be an experimental backdrop for a number of Turner’s designs related to literary projects. The only suggestion of detail in this simple study of colour and form in nature is offered by the rays of a setting or rising sun which the artist has drawn in pencil on the horizon.
A.J. Finberg reasonably identified this work as a study for Tornaro (see Tate D27689; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 172), a vignette which Turner designed for Rogers’s Poems (1834).1 More recently, Jan Piggott has linked it to O’Connor’s Child (National Gallery of Scotland),2 although it could also feasibly relate to Lord Ullin’s Daughter (National Gallery of Scotland).3 Both of the latter appear in Edward Moxon’s 1837 edition of Thomas Campbell’s Poetical Works.
Finberg 1909, vol.II, p.895.
Piggott 1993, p.95; Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, no.1276; reproduced in colour in Mungo Campbell, A Complete Catalogue of Works by Turner in the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh 1993, p.57.
Wilton 1979, no.1280; reproduced in colour in Campbell 1993, p.59.
Inscribed by unknown hands in blue pencil ‘224’ centre and in pencil ‘D27603’ bottom left

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

Read full Catalogue entry

You might like

In the shop