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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Conygar Tower, Dunster 1811

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 19 Verso:
Conygar Tower, Dunster 1811
Turner Bequest CXXIII 19a
Pencil on white wove writing paper, 75 x 117 mm
Inscribed by Turner in pencil ‘Corn’ bottom left, and with calculations at top right (see main catalogue entry)
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The three-stage, round Conygar Tower, an eighteenth-century folly overlooking Dunster in Somerset from the north, is seen from near Ellicombe, looking north-east with Bridgwater Bay beyond. Unusually, the hill and tower are shaded, as if silhouetted against the morning sky. Among the features on the coast of north Somerset on the horizon may be Flat Holm and Steep Holm Islands, which also feature in sketches on folios 121 recto and 166 recto (D08592, D08673; CXXIII 118, 163) and probably on folio 213 recto (D08746; CXXIII 210), as well as in the view of Dunster Castle in the contemporary Somerset and North Devon sketchbook (Tate D08953; Turner Bequest CXXVI 7). The tower appears in another drawing in the same book (Tate D08955; Turner Bequest CXXVI 9).
There are other definite and possible views of Dunster scattered through the present book, on folios 132 recto, 156 recto, 165 verso, 171 verso, 181 verso, 205 recto, 213 verso and 228 recto (D08613, D08654, D08672, D08683, D08699, D08732, D08747, D08768; CXXIII 129, 153, 162a, 168a, 178v, 202, 210a, 225).
The calculations at the top right are multiplications, each laid out on three lines. First, to the right of centre, is ‘557’ multiplied by ‘6’, making ‘33420’ (Turner has increased the total by a factor of ten by the subsequent addition of the ‘0’ to the total). To the right of this first sum, at the corner of the page, is a variation, this time with ‘557’ multiplied by ‘70’, which Turner makes ‘48990’ rather than the correct product, 38990. The sums’ significance is unclear; if financial, the figures are enormous.

Matthew Imms
June 2011

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Conygar Tower, Dunster 1811 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, June 2011, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-conygar-tower-dunster-r1136875, accessed 25 May 2022.