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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner East Gate, Winchelsea, Sussex c.1807-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
East Gate, Winchelsea, Sussex circa 1807–8
Turner Bequest CXVIII M
Watercolour on off-white wove writing paper, 182 x 254 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Etching and mezzotint by Turner and S.W. Reynolds, ‘EAST GATE WINCHELSEA Sussex’, published Turner, 1 January 1819
The second of Turner’s Winchelsea drawings to be engraved for the Liber Studiorum, the present work was probably intended as a pair with the first, Winchelsea, Sussex, published nearly seven years earlier (for the drawing and general discussion of the site, see Tate D08145; Turner Bequest CXVII Q); the designs were probably made at about the same time.1 The present design is derived from a tonal pencil and chalk drawing on prepared paper in the Sussex sketchbook of about 1804–6 (Tate D05763; Turner Bequest XCII 44); another sketch in the same book was used for Winchelsea, Sussex. Stopford Brooke described the relationship of the two Liber compositions; in the first, showing only the tower, ‘we have passed through the gate and stand at the top of the hill leading downwards onto the plain. The same flock of sheep ... is seen’.2 Another drawing in the book (Tate D05722; Turner Bequest XCII 4) may show the tower and gate in the distance.
Despite the published title of the design, Turner appears to show the Pipewell or Land Gate on the north side of the town, rather than the more impressive Strand Gate guarding the east side (with its arch flanked by round towers and neighbouring houses). In his later watercolour Winchelsea, Sussex, Soldiers on the March of circa 1828 (British Museum, London, 1958–7–12–429),3 Turner seems, in a deliberate echo, to show the same tower and gate as in the present Liber composition, but from the foot of the hill on the far side outside the town; he had visited Winchelsea around the mid-1810s and made more detailed, clearly differentiated drawings of each gate – he showed the more easterly, Strand Gate elevation of the town in Winchelsea, Sussex, and the Military Canal of about 1817 (private collection),4 with what is probably the tower in both Liber compositions in the distance on the right (i.e. to the north), based on a two-part panoramic study in the Hastings to Margate sketchbook (Tate D10517; Turner Bequest CXL 55 – see also closer view of the road rising to the Strand Gate, D10519; CXL 56a, and studies of the gate itself, D10527 and D10529; CXL 60a, 61a).
In Modern Painters, Ruskin saw the redundant gate as one of Turner’s records of the folly of ‘human pride’, with ‘the flock of sheep driven round it, not through it’,5 using it elsewhere as an example of ‘the contrast between the pure rustic life of our own day, and the pride and terror of the past.’6 Indeed this is the only one of the four finished Winchelsea compositions not to show soldiers (see entry for D08145 for discussion of the military theme). Stopford Brooke observed that Turner had not forgotten that Winchelsea (rebuilt inland in the Middle Ages), ‘was once on the sea, and that now it is still near the sea. For close at hand goes the fisherman, his shrimping-net upon his shoulder.’7 He had included a similar figure in the engraving of Holy Island Cathedral (for Liber drawing see Tate D08115; Turner Bequest CXVI N).
The composition is noted, as one of ‘Soldiers and Winchelsea +’, in a list of published and unpublished ‘Pastoral’ subjects in the Liber Notes (2) sketchbook (Tate D12160; Turner Bequest CLIV (a) 25a). The ‘+’ probably indicates that it, rather than its Liber companion, ‘Soldiers’ (Winchelsea, Sussex; see above), had yet to be engraved; these notes (Tate D12160–D12171; Turner Bequest CLIV (a) 25a–31) were apparently made between 1808 and as late as 1818.8 It also appears, as ‘East Gate [...]’, in a list (now rubbed and difficult to decipher) of Liber works in progress around 1817–18 inside the back cover of the Aesacus and Hesperie sketchbook (Tate D40933; Turner Bequest CLXIX);9 and, as ‘Reynolds ... Winchelsea’, with various other Liber subjects in the Farnley sketchbook (Tate D11998; Turner Bequest CLIII 2a). The latter list was possibly complied during Turner’s visit to Farnley in November 1818 and is headed ‘Liber Studiorum Plates out Jany 1 1819’.10
The Liber Studiorum etching and mezzotint engraving, etched by Turner and engraved by S.W. Reynolds, bears the publication date 1 January 1819 and was issued to subscribers as ‘EAST GATE WINCHELSEA Sussex’ in part 14 (Rawlinson/Finberg nos.67–71;11 see also Tate D08168 and D08169; Turner Bequest CXVIII O, Vaughan Bequest CXVIII N). Tate holds impressions of the preliminary outline etching (Tate A01140) and the published engraving (A01141). It is one of fourteen published Liber Studiorum subjects in Turner’s ‘Pastoral’ category (see also Tate D08102, D08111, D08116, D08121, D08127, D08136, D08140, D08145, D08151, D08158; CXVI A, J, O, T, Z, CXVII I, M, Q, W, CXVIII D; and Tate N02941).
Forrester 1996, pp.103, 129.
Brooke 1885, p.[137].
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.396 no.821, reproduced.
Ibid., p.348 no.430; Eric Shanes, Turner’s Rivers, Harbours and Coasts, London 1981, p.20 no.12, pl.12 (colour).
Cook and Wedderburn VII 1903, pp.433, 434.
Ibid., XIII 1904, p.121.
Brooke 1885, p.231.
Forrester 1996, pp.161–3 (transcribed).
Ibid., p.163 (transcribed).
Ibid., p.160 (transcribed).
Rawlinson 1878, pp.135–41; 1906, pp.159–66; Finberg 1924, pp.265–84.
Technical notes:
The paper was possibly washed initially. There is no pencil work; the fairly uniform wash for the sky has the lights scratched out; the animals were both washed out and reserved. Washes were followed by brushwork and scratching-out, and then more brushwork on the sheep. The overall warm brown colour results from the use of a single burnt sienna pigment.1
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files.

Matthew Imms
August 2009

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘East Gate, Winchelsea, Sussex c.1807–8 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, August 2009, 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-east-gate-winchelsea-sussex-r1131770, accessed 20 June 2024.