Joseph Mallord William Turner, English, 1775-1851
Title: A Ship against the Mewstone, at the Entrance to Plymouth Sound
Date: c.1814
Medium: Watercolour with white highlights and scraping-out on cream wove card
15.6 x 23.7 cm
Credit Line: Bequeathed, Henry Vaughan, 1900
Object Number: NGI.2413
DescriptionIn 1811 the engraver and publisher William Cooke approached Turner with a proposal to publish a print series entitled Picturesque Views of the Southern Coast of England. The series was issued in 16 parts, with the three prints in each part accompanied by text describing the location. Destined to be reproduced in black and white by engravers they were, of necessity, incredibly detailed. This watercolour, in which the waves are so accurately depicted, their frothy white crests being blown away by the strong wind, appeared in part six of the series published in 1815. The rigging of the ship labouring in the heavy swell, the clouds highlighted by a bright shaft of sunlight, even the gannets with their characteristic black wing tips are recorded in great detail. The ship, probably a depiction of a Royal Naval vessel, is dwarfed by the dreaded Mewstone. This dramatic natural feature, which lies at the eastern end of Plymouth Sound off Wembury Bay, notoriously claimed many lives over the centuries. during the summer of 1813 Turner spent time travelling along the coast, filling sketchbooks with his observations. A number of related studies exist in the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain.

March 2016

Inscriptionon verso (in graphite): Mewstone - Date of Engraving Feb. 1816