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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Land's End: Dr Syntax's Head from Dr Johnson's Head 1811

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 22 Recto:
Land’s End: Dr Syntax’s Head from Dr Johnson’s Head 1811
Turner Bequest CXXV 50 (bound as CXXV a 22)
Pencil on white wove paper, 140 x 215 mm
Inscribed by Turner ‘[?B i]’ centre left, ascending vertically
Inscribed by John Ruskin in ink ‘50’ bottom right
Inscribed by C.F. Bell in pencil ’22.’ top right
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CXXV.A – 22’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The view is north to Dr Syntax’s Head and the Peal from Dr Johnson’s Head, above which the Lands’ End Hotel now stands. Trevescan Cliff rises to the right, where the ‘First and Last House in England’ overlooks the sea (Land’s End famously being the most westerly point in the country, although not quite of Great Britain). On the implied horizon line are the Brisons rocks off Cape Cornwall.
Andrew Wilton has noted this sketch as the basis for the untraced watercolour Land’s End, Cornwall: Approaching Thunderstorm of about 1813,1 engraved in 1814 for Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England2 (see the concordance of the series in the 1811 tour introduction; Tate impressions: T04373, T04374, T05426–T05433, T05963), with a rough sea and lightning over the Brisons. The composition is comparable with one of William Daniell’s aquatints of the scene for his later Voyage Round Great Britain (Tate impression: T03024).
This sketch and the Land’s End view on folio 23 recto (D08942; CXXV 51, bound as CXXV a 23), now part of the Cornwall and Devon sketchbook, are noted at the end of Finberg’s 1909 Inventory listing for the Ivy Bridge to Penzance sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest CXXV) as two ‘extra leaves’: ‘The book to which they belong does not appear to be in the collection. They are therefore placed here for convenience of reference.’3 He numbered them CXXV 50 and 51, apparently because Ruskin had already inscribed them with the same Arabic numbers.
As discussed in the introduction, all the pages of the present ‘sketchbook’ appear to have originally been loose sheets, and most are not recorded in Finberg’s Inventory. He subsequently noted this subject again as ‘Lands End, Cornwall. (Entered as p.50. CXXV.)’ in a manuscript listing of the whole sketchbook,4 while C.F. Bell described it in his own notes simply as ‘Lands End’.5 There are other views of Land’s End and the adjacent coast on the rectos of folios 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 66 and 67 (D41300–D41305, D41348, D41349). An inscription on folio 3 recto (D41278) may refer to nearby Whitesand Bay, although its relevance to the sketch on that page is uncertain.
Wilton 1979, p.351 no.447.
Ibid., under no.447; see also Shanes 1981, p.152.
Finberg 1909, I, p.356.
A.J. Finberg, MS addenda, [circa 1928–39], tipped into a copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, vol.I, opposite p.356, as CXXV(a) 8.
C.F. Bell, MS addenda, [after 1928], tipped into a copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, vol.I, p.356A, as CXXVa 22.
Technical notes:
The sheet is slightly wrinkled, possibly as a result of exposure to damp. Like folio 23, it has darkened and is irregularly stained. When Tate accession numbers were allotted to Turner Bequest works, this page was initially numbered D41297, in sequence with others in the book, but as it was already numbered D08941 in the context of Ivy Bridge to Penzance, the latter number was retained and the new one cancelled as redundant.
Blank, save for inscriptions: inscribed by C.F. Bell in pencil ‘Land’s End’ bottom left. There are glue stains at the corners of the sheet.

Matthew Imms
July 2011

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Land’s End: Dr Syntax’s Head from Dr Johnson’s Head 1811 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, July 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-lands-end-dr-syntaxs-head-from-dr-johnsons-head-r1137445, accessed 12 July 2020.