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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner ?A Wide Beach and the Sea below a Bright Sky 1819

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 11 Recto:
?A Wide Beach and the Sea below a Bright Sky 1819
Turner Bequest CLXXXI 11
Watercolour on white wove paper 226 x 287 mm
Inscribed in pencil ‘11’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CLXXXI – 11’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This page and folio 10 recto (D15261) have both been treated with broadly brushed but carefully controlled horizontal washes of pale colours suggesting a generic scene of a calm sea with an open horizon below a pale sky, with a strip of beach or shoreline in the foreground. They and the more varied and dynamic beach scenes on folios 12 recto and 13 recto (D15263–D15264) are of the type Finberg called ‘colour beginnings’, among which are the best known are the separate sheets in Turner Bequest section CCLXIII;1 for a discussion of the function of such works in general, see the Introduction to the ‘England and Wales Colour Studies c.1825–39’ section.2
Finberg used the same undifferentiated description for all four of the pages here: ‘Commencement of a water colour drawing’.3 Martin Butlin has described the use of ‘basic colours representing the foreground, distance and sky, of a kind that may have been the starting-out point for some of the other sketches’, meaning the watercolours of Lake Como, Milan and Venice earlier in the sketchbook (see the Introduction), which share horizontal colour structures, developed and articulated by elements of landscape and architecture.4 Butlin and Evelyn Joll have pointed out similarities with an undeveloped Landscape Composition in oils (Tate N05523),5 and a page from the Rome: Colour Studies sketchbook, used on the present tour (Tate D16385; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 55), with bands of colour applied on a page previously treated with a pale grey wash.6 Compare the more ‘abstract’ of the ‘colour beginnings’, gathered in the ‘Colour Studies of Clear or Hazy Skies’ category of the ‘Colour Studies of the Sun, Skies and Clouds c.1815–45’ section of this catalogue, in particular Tate D17180, D40303–D40304 and D25254 (Turner Bequest CXCVI P1, P2, P3, CCLXIII 138).
Eric Shanes has compared this page, ‘the most sensitive and subtle in colouring’ of the undeveloped ‘colour beginnings’ in this sketchbook, with D15256 (Turner Bequest CLXXXI 6), a comparatively conventional topographical rendering of the Dogana and Bacino in Venice, pointing out that under ‘the representation of buildings and boats ... may easily be apprehended a band of diffused colours that is very similar’ to this one.7 See also under D15261 for Michael Bockemühl’s observations about that work’s fundamental similarities to another of the Venice subjects.
See Finberg 1909, II, pp.814–45.
See also Eric Shanes, ‘Beginnings’ in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann (eds.), The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, pp.21–3; among many other accounts, see also Andrew Wilton in Martin Butlin, Wilton and John Gage, Turner 1775–1851, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy, London 1974, p.26; and Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.187.
Finberg 1909, I, p.535.
Butlin 1962, p.36; see also Gage 1969, p.32, and Butlin 1975, p.38.
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.158 no.257, pl.262.
See ibid., p.158.
Shanes 1997, pp.36–7.
Blank; there is some slight watercolour offsetting from folio 12 recto opposite (D15263).

Matthew Imms
March 2017

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘?A Wide Beach and the Sea below a Bright Sky 1819 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, March 2017, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, July 2017, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-a-wide-beach-and-the-sea-below-a-bright-sky-r1186402, accessed 25 June 2024.