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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner ?The Great Mew Stone from Wembury c.1813

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
?The Great Mew Stone from Wembury c.1813
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 263
Gouache and watercolour on white wove paper, 174 x 244 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Inscribed in pencil ‘CCLXIII’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCLXIII – 263’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Finberg called this loosely worked study ‘Rocks on the coast’,1 and although Andrew Wilton placed it among miscellaneous ‘related studies of a mountainous subject unconnected with any finished work’,2 Eric Shanes later focused on its principal feature, the pyramidal rock in the distance, and suggested that it showed ‘The Mewstone, near Plymouth’, and associated it with the Southern Coast series (see the Introduction to this section).3 Shanes has linked this subject and two ‘stylistically similar, rather monochromatic representations of shorelines and inlets near Plymouth’ (Tate D25364, D25366; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 242, 244), and dated them to as early as 1811, although the Plymouth, Hamoaze sketchbook he identified as the source of the other two (Tate; Turner Bequest CXXXI) was used in 1813.4
Turner did draw the Great Mew Stone, off the eastern shore at the entrance to Plymouth Sound, as an incidental feature in the 1811 Ivy Bridge to Penzance sketchbook (Tate D08875; Turner Bequest CXXV 10), but it is seen from far and near in numerous Plymouth, Hamoaze sketches, both from the shore and in the course of a well-documented, stormy voyage down the coast from Plymouth (see under Tate D09476; Turner Bequest CXXXI 186a). It was this journey which inspired the tumultuous Southern Coast watercolour of about 1814 (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin),5 engraved in 1816 as The Mew Stone, at the Entrance of Plymouth Sound, Devonshire (Tate impressions: T04383–T04385, T05392, T05393, T05970). See also Tate D17170 (Turner Bequest CXCVI F), a less finished watercolour variant of about 1823–6 engraved for the ‘Little Liber’.
Of the shore-based drawings in the Plymouth, Hamoaze sketchbook, the present study is particularly comparable with Tate D09279 (Turner Bequest CXXXI 57), one of a sequence made from near Wembury Church, where the rock is seen beyond a wooded valley, partly eclipsed by the church tower; the tower is not shown here, but the heavily shaded trees in foreground of the pencil sketch seem to be echoed in the dynamic mass of foliage on the left.
Finberg 1909, II, p.834.
Wilton 1980, p.[173] note 1.
See Shanes 1997, pp.94, 102.
Shanes 1997, p.28; see also pp.94, 102.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.351 no.454, reproduced.
Technical notes:
There appears to have been some patchy rubbing along the bottom edge.

Matthew Imms
July 2016

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘?The Great Mew Stone from Wembury c.1813 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-great-mew-stone-from-wembury-r1184407, accessed 24 May 2024.