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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Dartmouth, on the River Dart 1822

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Dartmouth, on the River Dart 1822
Turner Bequest CCVIII C
Watercolour on white wove watercolour paper, 157 x 226 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
A bright morning sun illuminates the town of Kingswear on the banks of the River Dart in this, one of two drawings of Dartmouth, produced for the Rivers of England series. The other is Dartmouth Castle, on the River Dart (Tate D18137; Turner Bequest CCVIII D). Indeed, four of the watercolours engraved for this series depicted sites in Devon. Ian Warrell has suggested that ‘the prominence of views from this county may be due to the abundance of material gathered by Turner during his tour of the west of England in 1811’.1
Turner depicts a scene of everyday activity: a milkman making his early rounds on the right, his milkpans and a vivid red hoop adding diverting incident to the foreground. Pack-mules loaded with cumbersome sacks are being led through a narrow winding street; they are presumably making their way to the ‘pannier-market’ regularly held in the town for the sale of produce from remote farms. A milkmaid can be seen poking her head through an open archway surveying this stream of traffic. To the left of a concertina of ramshackle rooftops are the shipyards: conspicuous by the row of skeletal frames of the hulls being worked on by shipwrights. Here Turner points to Dartmouth’s shipbuilding legacy: in 1826 alone no fewer than nineteen vessels were constructed there.2 Down from the yards, in the distance and on the right, the hazy form of the tower of the Church of St Petrox can be seen, adjacent to the castle.
A pencil drawing found in the Devonshire Coast, No.1 sketchbook of 1811 (Tate D08788; Turner Beqest CXXIII 239) seems to have informed this work. This sketchbook was one of a number compiled in the West Country constituting the foundation of Turner’s research for his Picturesque Views for the Southern Coast of England watercolours.
Regarding the drawing’s painterly execution, Eric Shanes writes that like a number of watercolours in the Rivers and Ports of England series, this drawing ‘is notable for the amount of stippling it contains’ which serves to ‘increase the textural vibrancy of the work’ and creates ‘an effect that is equivalent to the surface vibrancy of oil paint dragged across the tooth of a canvas’.3
For other pencil sketches of Dartmouth, see Turner’s Corfe to Dartmouth sketchbook of 1811 (Tate D08861, D08862; Turner Bequest CXXIV 46, 47) and the Devon Rivers, No.2 sketchbook (c.1812–5) (Tate D09734, D09738; Turner Bequest CXXXIII 53, 55a).
This drawing was not published as a mezzotint engraving.

Alice Rylance-Watson
March 2013

Warrell 1994, p.126, no.34.
Shanes 1990, p.109, no.84 reproduced (colour).

How to cite

Alice Rylance-Watson, ‘Dartmouth, on the River Dart 1822 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, March 2013, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, August 2014, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-dartmouth-on-the-river-dart-r1146202, accessed 25 May 2024.