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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Tilbury Fort Water Gate c.1827

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Tilbury Fort Water Gate c.1827
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 110
Gouache on blue paper, 280 x 188 mm
Inscribed by Turner in pencil ‘4 vig. For the East Coast’ bottom left
Inscribed in pencil ‘CCLXXX’ bottom right
Inscribed in red ink ‘110’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCLXXX-110’ bottom right
Stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram lower right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner inscribed this sheet ‘4 vig [taken to mean vignettes] for the East Coast’ and it can therefore be quite firmly connected to his work on an incomplete print project known as ‘Picturesque Views on the East Coast of England’, although it did not result in a finished watercolour or print for the scheme. For more information about this project, see the Introduction to this section.
The study’s specific subject matter has only just come to light, thanks to a new identification by Matthew Imms.1 In 1909 the Turner Bequest’s first cataloguer, A.J. Finberg, described this sheet as showing ‘a monument’, and in 1993 Jan Piggott published it as ‘Church on a quay’.2 Imms, however, suggested the sketch shows the Water Gate at Tilbury Fort on the Thames Estuary in Essex. The seventeenth-century fort was designed to protect London’s seaward approach, and remained defensively important in Turner’s day; while few sketches of it appear to survive in the Turner Bequest (the fort can, however, be glimpsed in Tate D06432; Turner Bequest XCIX 44), it is a location Turner must have sailed past many times. It is easy to imagine that a building with such strong naval connotations would have appealed to Turner as a subject for the ‘East Coast’ series. Tilbury is also recorded as the subject of a now unknown painting, which was apparently in Turner’s studio in 1810 (see the entry for Tate D09121; Turner Bequest CXXIX 45).
Turner made full use of the blue paper support, contrasting the background colour against the opaque white gouache used to represent the building, and the warmer palette employed to indicate the background and water, in which the water gate is seen reflected.
Matthew Imms, Tate Research Cataloguer, suggested the subject is Tilbury Fort’s water gate in 2018.
Finberg 1909 vol.II, p.897; Piggott 1993, p.96.
Technical notes:
There is a spot of foxing on the upper part of the sheet.
Blank, save for inscription in pencil: ‘AB 23 P / o’.

Elizabeth Jacklin
August 2018

How to cite

Elizabeth Jacklin, ‘Tilbury Fort Water Gate c.1827 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, August 2018, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, November 2019, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-tilbury-fort-water-gate-r1195900, accessed 23 April 2024.