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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner A Rough Sea with Waves Breaking on a Beach, Perhaps on the Venice Lido or the Adriatic Coast ?1840

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
A Rough Sea with Waves Breaking on a Beach, Perhaps on the Venice Lido or the Adriatic Coast ?1840
Turner Bequest CCCXVII 17
Gouache and pencil or chalk on grey wove paper, 191 x 280 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCCXVII – 17’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This is one of three colour studies on grey paper (Tate D32191, D32202, D32203; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 12, 17, 18) included in the present grouping of Venice Lagoon subjects. Only the last of these has previously been proposed in recent years as relating to Turner’s 1840 visit. The other two are included here tentatively by association in terms of the similarity of their grey paper supports (see the technical notes below) and their having originally been included in the ‘Venice: Miscellaneous. (b) Grey Paper’ section of Finberg’s 1909 Inventory, albeit D32191 was among a handful (D32185–D32191; CCCXVII 6–12) on similar paper of which he noted ‘some – probably all ... are not Venetian subjects’, but likely ‘done at the same time’,1 while this and D32203 were given generic titles. D32185–D32190 are included elsewhere in the present tour. Finberg subsequently decided that the present sheet was ‘nothing to do with Venice’.2
Small figures and boats drawn up on the shore delicately outlined (possibly from direct observation) at the bottom left give a sense of scale and drama to the choppy sea and white surf, laid on in thick white strokes with ochre touches suggesting churning sands. Such beach studies are characteristic of all phases of Turner’s career, with the use of grey or blue paper common from the 1820s onwards (see the ‘Coastal Scenes and Shipping c.1820–45’ and ‘Figures on a Beach c.1826–45’ sections of this catalogue). The setting might be the Lido facing the Adriatic Sea south-east of Venice, elsewhere on the Adriatic (which Turner crossed to Trieste as he began the return leg of the 1840 tour), or even a Channel coast closer to home.
Finberg 1909, II, p.1022; see also Finberg 1930, p.175, and Wilton 1974, p.160.
Undated MS note by Finberg (died 1939) in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1024; see also Finberg 1930, p.175.
Technical notes:
As it was not identified there as a Venice subject, this sheet is not included in Ian Warrell’s survey of the papers used on Turner’s visits to Venice,1 where others from Turner Bequest section CCCXVII are listed (see under D32203) as on English Bally, Ellen and Steart grey paper, used in 1840 (and possibly in a few cases in 1833); whether the present visually similar sheet, which lacks a watermark, is from the same source remains to be confirmed. Subjects encountered on the way to and from the city on that occasion, now scattered through the Bequest but including D32185–D32190 (CCCXVII 6–11), are on sheets by the same maker, as noted by Cecilia Powell.2
See Ian Warrell in Warrell, David Laven, Jan Morris and others, Turner and Venice, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2003, pp.258–9.
See Cecilia Powell, Turner in Germany, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1995, p.145, except D32185; it too is confirmed as Bally, Ellen and Steart paper in Peter Bower, Turner’s Later Papers: A Study of the Manufacture, Selection and Use of his Drawing Papers 1820–1851, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1999, p.105.
Blank; closed mount. In her 2009 technical report, Tate paper conservator Helen Evans noted a number in red ink at the bottom left, apparently ‘80’ but with the bottom of the first digit abraded; she also recorded extensive staining, and paper residue and skinning of the surface resulting from the sheet being detached from an earlier mount.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘A Rough Sea with Waves Breaking on a Beach, Perhaps on the Venice Lido or the Adriatic Coast ?1840 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, September 2018, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2019, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-a-rough-sea-with-waves-breaking-on-a-beach-perhaps-on-the-r1196459, accessed 19 January 2022.