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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner ?The Eddystone Lighthouse c.1817

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
?The Eddystone Lighthouse c.1817
Turner Bequest CXCVI G
Watercolour on white wove paper, 368 x 493 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards top left
Inscribed in pencil ‘CXCVI G. [...]’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CXCVI – G’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Finberg described this ‘colour beginning’ as ‘Eddystone Lighthouse’, relating it to the large watercolour of about 1817 (private collection)1 engraved in 1824 as The Edystone Light House, ‘Plate I of a Series of Marine Views’ (Tate impression: T04820).2 He noted ‘additions in white chalk’,3 but these are no longer readily evident, having presumably faded or been lost from the surface in the intervening century; perhaps they once outlined the lighthouse itself. From 2002 this work was exhibited as ‘Black Sky over Water; possibly the Eddystone Lighthouse’, but dated to about 1825–30.4 As the composition engraved for Marine Views is Turner’s only recorded finished treatment of the subject, the present sheet is here dated to about 1817; this is assuming that it is actually a study for that design, limited as it is in its present state to depicting a rough sea and dark sky without the structure and wreckage later introduced. See also Tate D17172 (Turner Bequest CXCVI H), similarly identified by Finberg.
Turner may have visited the Eddystone, about thirteen miles out to sea off Plymouth, Devon, in 1813, as discussed in the entry for Tate D10258 (Turner Bequest CXXXVII 40) in the Vale of Heathfield sketchbook, one of three watercolour studies there of the structure in a stormy setting much as depicted in the 1817 design (see also Tate D10257, D10260; Turner Bequest CXXXVII 39, 41). It is perhaps telling that a fourth page, Tate D10256 (Turner Bequest CXXXVII 38), shows the sea and sky without the lighthouse, as here. This ‘Hamlet without the prince’ approach is not unusual in those of Turner’s colour studies relatable to finished designs which focus on establishing light and mood; compare the colour study for Stonehenge in the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate D25123; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 1).
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.357 no.506, as untraced, c.1822.
Finberg 1909, I, p.599.
Tate cataloguing files.
Technical notes:
There is a closed 60 mm tear to the left-hand edge. An irregular 40 x 30 mm loss at the bottom left corner has been made up with similar paper and washed to match. The surface is somewhat soiled.
Blank; extensive scattered brown staining. Inscribed by ?John Ruskin in pencil ‘AB 92 P’ bottom right.

Matthew Imms
July 2016

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘?The Eddystone Lighthouse c.1817 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-the-eddystone-lighthouse-r1184422, accessed 21 May 2024.