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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner A Jetty, ?with a Steamer at Sea in the Distance c.1842-5

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
A Jetty, ?with a Steamer at Sea in the Distance c.1842–5
Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 203
Watercolour on white wove paper, 255 x 393 mm
Watermark ‘J Whatman | 1842’
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCCLXIV – 203’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The only attempt at a topographical identification of this subject has been by Eric Shanes, who proposed that it shows the mouth of Portsmouth Harbour with the Gosport blockhouse on the right and the Isle of Wight across the Solent in the distance to the south, giving a pencil sketch in the London Bridge and Portsmouth sketchbook of around 1824 as the source (Tate D17920; Turner Bequest CCVI 4a).1 The subject is unconfirmed, and any similarity to the minuscule coastal profile on that page may well be fortuitous.
The structure here seems more like a somewhat ramshackle wooden pier that Gosport’s substantial stone battery, shown from the sea in the watercolours Portsmouth, of about 1824 (Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight),2 engraved in 1825 for Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England (Tate impressions: T04419, T05302–T05304, T05994), Portsmouth, of about 1824–5 (Tate D18152; Turner Bequest CCVIII S),3 engraved in 1828 for The Ports of England (Tate impressions: T04833, T04834), and Gosport, Entrance to Portsmouth Harbour, of about 1829 (Portsmouth Museums and Records),4 engraved in 1831 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impressions: T04574, T04575).
It is unclear whether the layered, somewhat uneven blue horizon represents the open sea, hills enclosing water, or a band of cloud. Finberg defined the subject as ‘Lake, with pier’,5 perhaps in connection with Turner’s annual Swiss tours of the early 1840s. A rain storm seems to be moving in or easing off, apparently with a smoking steamer just clear of it against the glowing sky; the sense of openness perhaps favours a scene off the South Coast of England rather than a mountain lake. Compare some strongly coloured studies including loosely defined harbour structures in the 1845 Ideas of Folkestone sketchbook (Tate D35363–D35369; Turner Bequest CCCLVI 3–9).
See Shanes 1997, p.98; see also p.31.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.354 no.477, reproduced.
Ibid., p.387 no.756, reproduced.
Ibid., p.397 no.828.
Finberg 1909, II, p.1189.
Blank; slight splashes of blue watercolour. Inscribed in pencil ‘84’ at centre; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CCCLXIV – 203’ bottom right; inscribed in pencil ‘D36048’ bottom right.

Matthew Imms
August 2016

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘A Jetty, ?with a Steamer at Sea in the Distance c.1842–5 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, August 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-jetty-with-a-steamer-at-sea-in-the-distance-r1184475, accessed 15 April 2024.