J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner A Coastal Study; St Michael's Mount, Cornwall; Margate, Kent c.1811-12

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
A Coastal Study; St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall; Margate, Kent c.1811–12
Turner Bequest CCCLXV 37
Gouache and watercolour on white wove paper, 552 x 367 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards top left, above left of centre and towards bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCCLXV – 37’ top right, ascending vertically
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
It was not unusual for Turner to work on two or three ‘colour beginning’ compositions on a single sheet, although many were subsequently divided. In this instance there are three partially developed coastal scenes. At the top is an elemental study in yellow and grey washes so lacking in structure and detail as to be readable either way, as a pale dawn sky over a grey sea or a grey sky over a wet beach.
At the centre, inverted relative to the third study discussed below, is a scene of a wet beach and pale sea with a yellow form against the grey sky on the right. This is presumably the one Finberg meant in suggesting a subject: ‘Perhaps one is for St. Michael’s Mount’.1 It appears to relate directly to the watercolour of about 1812 (private collection)2 engraved for the Southern Coast series in 1814 (Tate T04370, T04371, T05422, T05423). The composition was based on drawings in the 1811 Ivy Bridge to Penzance sketchbook, particularly Tate D08911–D08912 (Turner Bequest CXXV 31a–32); for more on the subject, see under Tate D08910 (Turner Bequest CXXV 31). There is no pencil work within the present study, but there are rough pencil lines around it made with a straight edge. Whether these were drawn by Turner to focus the composition, or by a later hand with a view to dividing the sheet and mounting this portion, is unknown.
The lowest composition has been identified by Eric Shanes as a view of Margate, with the barrel-like silhouette of Hooper’s Mill, a distinctive ‘horizontal’ windmill silhouetted at the centre; this likely dates the design ‘to before 1826 when the mill was destroyed in a storm.’3 Turner’s watercolour Margate, Kent, is usually placed at about 1822 (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven), and was engraved for the Southern Coast in 1824 (Tate impressions: T04405–T04406, T05223–T05231, T05998).4 However, it seems possible that he was considering a design of the familiar scene at the same early stage as the St Michael’s Mount subject, perhaps derived from the dark-toned oil painting Margate he had exhibited in at his own gallery in 1808 (Tate T03876).5 This shows the town to the east from its bay, with the mill on the skyline, and the prospect is comparable to that shown in the eventual Southern Coast design.6 See under Tate D25166 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 44), a ‘colour beginning’ perhaps made in connection with the later Picturesque Views in England and Wales project, for other finished watercolours of the town.
Finberg 1909, II, p.1214.
Wilton 1979, p.350 no.445, reproduced.
Shanes 1997, p.31; see also p.99.
Wilton 1979, p.353 no.471, reproduced; Rawlinson I 1908, pp.xci, 60 no.113.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.59–60 no.78, pl.88.
See Eric Shanes, Turner’s Rivers, Harbours and Coasts, London 1981, pp.26–7, as noted in Butlin and Joll 1984, p.60.
Blank; laid down.

Matthew Imms
July 2016

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘A Coastal Study; St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall; Margate, Kent c.1811–12 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, July 2016, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, February 2017, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-a-coastal-study-st-michaels-mount-cornwall-margate-kent-r1184420, accessed 25 June 2024.