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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Folkestone from the Sea c.1822-4

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folkestone from the Sea c.1822–4
Turner Bequest CCVIII Y
Watercolour and gouache on white wove paper, 488 x 684 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This large, elaborate but slightly unfinished design was included in the ‘“Rivers and Ports,” &c.: Finished Drawings’ section of Finberg’s 1909 Turner Bequest Inventory, although as he placed it without further comment at the end of that section, after the ‘Rivers of Devon’ watercolour Ivy Bridge (Tate D18157; Turner Bequest CCVIII X), he presumably did not intend to associate it directly with the smaller and more highly wrought watercolours engraved for the Rivers and Ports of England (for which see Alice Rylance-Watson’s sections dated c.1822–4 and c.1822–8 in the present catalogue).
Tate D25480 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 357) is a rather less finished variation on the theme of the present work, while Twilight – Smugglers off Folkestone Fishing Up Smuggled Gin (private collection),1 exhibited at the engraver and publisher W.B. Cooke’s gallery in 1824 (41)2 is also associated with Cooke’s short-lived Marine Views print scheme (see the Introduction to this section);3 it was subsequently engraved by Thomas Lupton in the same format as the two published designs he had worked on, but not issued; see the entry for Tate’s impression (T05197) for further discussion. This was possibly because of the breakdown in relations between Turner and Cooke in 1827, or perhaps it was abandoned as its lawless subject might be regarded as a contentious one to put before the public; that would have been even more of an issue here, with the detailed depiction of criminal activities centre stage.
David Brown has suggested that ‘so accurate are Turner’s rendering ... that it is likely that he went out with smugglers to observe their methods’.4 Compare two subjects associated with the later Picturesque Views in England and Wales series which were probably not pursued on the grounds of potential controversy, depicting a parliamentary election in Northampton in 1830 (Tate T12321) and the fiery destruction of Parliament itself in 1834 (Tate D36235; Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 373). Nevertheless, other aspects of smuggling associated with Folkestone are shown in watercolours for Cooke’s Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England (Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati),5 engraved in 1826 (Tate impression: T05254) and England and Wales (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven),6 engraved in 1831 (Tate impressions: T04570, T04571).7 For a comprehensive summary of the port in Turner’s drawings from the 1810s through to 1845, see Alice Rylance-Watson’s Introduction to the Ideas of Folkestone sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest CCCLVI) in the ‘Kent Coast and Whaling c.1844–5’ section.
In discussing the present work, Eric Shanes has detailed the vast, illicit trade along the English Channel coast of Kent involving Continental goods, even during the Napoleonic Wars.8 After the peace of 1815, high excise duties on tobacco and spirits only served to aggravate the situation, in answer to which a Coast Blockade was established in 1816, and the Revenue authorities also had their own marine and shore-based officers. This led to the smugglers operating in the shallow waters off Folkestone developing an evasive routine of ‘sinking and creeping’: goods would initially be secured with a ‘sinking rope’ and put overboard to be recovered from the sea-bed during feigned fishing trips by ‘creeping’ with grappling hooks.
Shanes notes that the present design shows the nocturnal interaction between the crews of a French lugger (flying the tricolour) and the local men in a six-oared ‘Folkestone cocktail’ off St Mary and St Eanswythe’s Parish Church to the north-west. As the low full moon sets and the obscuring cloud clears, the golden light of dawn encroaches from the right, bringing with it a Coast Blockade craft which has caused the French boat to raise its sail for a rapid departure.9 Evelyn Joll has noted that Turner’s ‘anatomical correctness’ is sometimes questioned; here ‘the men grappling with the sails are clumsily drawn but the general impression of guilty haste as the excise men draw near is perfectly conveyed.’10 There is a marked division in the sky between the cool blue night air on the left and the sunlight on the right,11 a formal device Turner used occasionally elsewhere, most notably perhaps in the 1839 painting The Fighting ‘Temeraire’, Tugged to her Last Berth to be Broken Up, 1838  (Turner Bequest, National Gallery, London).12
In 1978, the present work and D25480 were among four Folkestone views from the Turner Bequest reproduced in a limited edition of 500 facsimiles by Robert Brown and Martin Gill of London Collotype Editions, employing ten colour separations.13
Wilton 1979, p.358 no.509, as untraced; Eric Shanes, Turner’s England 1810–38, London 1990, p.271 no.245, reproduced.
Finberg 1961, p.485; see also Shanes 1990, pp.12, 281 note 49.
See also Wilton 1979, p.512, Shanes 1981, p.33, Chumbley and Warrell 1989, p.44, Shanes 1990, pp.120–1, Warrell 1991, p.20, Shanes 1997, p.28, Shanes 2000, p.155, Brown 2007, p.14, and Brown 2008, p.19.
David Blayney Brown in Brown, Sarah Skinner and Ian Warrell, Coasting: Turner and Bonington on the Shores of the Channel, exhibition catalogue, Nottingham Castle 2008, p.19.
Wilton 1979, p.355 no.480, reproduced.
Ibid., p.396 no.826, reproduced.
See Wilton 1975, p.60.
This paragraph is informed principally by the account in Shanes 1990, pp.120–1; see also Shanes 1981, p.33, Warrell and Chumbley 1989, p.44, Warrell 1991, p.20, and Shanes 2000, p.155.
Ibid., p.121.
Joll 1989, p.59.
See Shanes 1981, p.33, Shanes 1990, p.121, Warrell 1991, p.20, Shanes 2000, p.155, and Brown 2007, p.14.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.229–31 no.377, pl.381 (colour).
See Weil 1978, pp.4–5.
Technical notes:
Eric Shanes has described this work as ‘fully finished but untrimmed’,1 leaving it a little larger than the completed Marine Views elsewhere (see the section Introduction)
The full moon was initially reserved, and its brightness has been further emphasised by rubbing away of the surrounding washes, creating a graduated halo. A stopping-out gum or varnish appears to have been used extensively in the surrounding waves, combined with touches of white gouache, creating glittering, translucent effects.2
Shanes 1997, p.28; see also Dhanes 2000, p.155.
See also Warrell 1991, p.20.
Blank; laid down on trimmed sheet of white wove paper, stamped in black ‘CCVIII – Y’ towards bottom centre.

Matthew Imms
July 2016

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Folkestone from the Sea c.1822–4 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, July 2016, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, February 2017, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-folkestone-from-the-sea-r1184424, accessed 21 May 2024.