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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Sailing Boats in Folkestone Harbour, below St Mary and St Eanswythe's Church; the Coast towards Dover 1825

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 13 Verso:
Sailing Boats in Folkestone Harbour, below St Mary and St Eanswythe’s Church; the Coast towards Dover 1825
Turner Bequest CCXIV 13a
Pencil on white wove paper, 95 x 155 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
With the page turned horizontally, there are three bands of rapid sketches. As tentatively suggested by Finberg,1 the setting is Folkestone, with isolated studies of boats under sail along the top (outer) edge. The slight central view shows boats moored in the harbour, overlooked by St Mary and St Eanswythe’s Church on the cliff beyond to the west.
Framed by pencil lines, at the bottom left and right are views east-north-east from the harbour; that on the right appears to be a brief continuation to the left of the other, with houses along the Stade. The main part of the subject includes Martello Tower No.3 on the skyline above the dark cliffs towards Copt Point.2 Beyond, the undulating and somewhat compressed line of white chalk cliffs along East Wear Bay stretch away to the distinctive if exaggerated profile of Shakespeare Cliff, about five miles off on the near side of Dover (see under folio 2 recto; D18843). The mast appears to be the one at the end of the western harbour arm; see also folio 14 recto opposite (D18867).
The view is comparable to the background of the watercolour Folkestone Harbour and Coast to Dover (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven),3 engraved in 1831 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impressions: T04570–T04571). In his detailed study of the England and Wales series, Eric Shanes did not mention this sketchbook in relation to the watercolour, but noted drawings in the Richmond Hill; Hastings to Margate book of about 1816–19 (Tate D10477; Turner Bequest CXL 35a) and the Folkestone book of about 1821–2 (D17258–D17259, D17261; CXCVIII 30a, 31, 32).4
While the earlier drawings show similar prospects and demonstrate that the view had already made an impression on Turner, they are all slighter, and it seems that in practice he based the composition on the present drawing and the variants on folios 12 verso, 14 verso and 17 recto (D18864, D18868, D18873); likely prompted by the shading here and on D18864 and D18868, not featured in the previous views, in the watercolour he was careful to differentiate between the darker cliffs above the harbour and the bright chalk beyond. For Turner’s numerous other Folkestone views in this book (including sketches relating to other watercolours) and elsewhere, see under folio 8 recto (D18855), another harbour view towards the church.

Matthew Imms
September 2020

See Finberg 1909, II, p,651.
See Peter Faulkner ed., ‘Martello Towers in Kent’, Martello Towers, accessed 27 February 2020, https://martellotowers.co.uk/kent.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.396 no.826, reproduced.
See Eric Shanes, Turner’s Picturesque Views in England and Wales 1825–1838, London 1979, p.156.

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Sailing Boats in Folkestone Harbour, below St Mary and St Eanswythe’s Church; the Coast towards Dover 1825 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, September 2020, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, March 2023, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-sailing-boats-in-folkestone-harbour-below-st-mary-and-st-r1202218, accessed 21 June 2024.