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Oil painting - St Michael's Mount, Cornwall
  • St Michael's Mount, Cornwall
    Turner, Joseph Mallord William, born 1775 - died 1851
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St Michael's Mount, Cornwall

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (painted)

  • Date:

    ca. 1834 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Turner, Joseph Mallord William, born 1775 - died 1851 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Given by John Sheepshanks, 1857

  • Museum number:

    FA.209[O]

  • Gallery location:

    Paintings, Room 87, The Edwin and Susan Davies Galleries, case East Wall

The island of St Michael's Mount is the site of a medieval monastery. Its harbour is linked to the mainland by a causeway at low tide. This composition derives from sketches made in 1811. One critic thought it 'unsubstantial and visionary'. It is probably a pair with Line Fishing, Off Hastings, also in the V&A.

Physical description

Oil on canvas depicting St. Michael's Mount, dramatically dominating the scene in the background, while in the foreground fisherfolk work amongst boats on the sands

Place of Origin

Great Britain (painted)

Date

ca. 1834 (painted)

Artist/maker

Turner, Joseph Mallord William, born 1775 - died 1851 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

Height: 61 cm estimate, Width: 77.4 cm estimate, Height: 88 cm frame, Width: 105.5 cm frame, Depth: 8 cm frame

Object history note

FA 209 was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1834 (no. 317), and bought (or possibly commissioned ) by John Sheepshanks; by whom given to the museum 1857

[John Sheepshanks]
Extract from Parkinson, Ronald, Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860. Victoria & Albert Museum, HMSO, London, 1990. p.xviii.

John Sheepshanks (1784-1863) was the son of a wealthy cloth manufacturer. He entered the family business, but his early enthusiasms were for gardening and the collecting of Dutch and Flemish prints. He retired from business at the age of 40, by which time he had begun collecting predominantly in the field of modern British art. He told Richard Redgrave RA, then a curator in the South Kensington Museum (later the V&A) of his intention to give his collection to the nation. The gallery built to house the collection was the first permanent structure on the V&A site, and all concerned saw the Sheepshanks Gift as forming the nucleus of a National Gallery of British Art. Sheepshanks commissioned works from contemporary artists, bought from the annual RA summer exhibitions, but also bought paintings by artists working before Queen Victoria ascended the throne in 1837. The Sheepshanks Gift is the bedrock of the V&A's collection of British oil paintings, and served to encourage many other collectors to make donations and bequests.

Historical significance: Turner drew St. Michael's Mount several times: in a 1811 sketchbook, in a watercolour of about 1812 for the engraving in the Southern Coast series in 1814 (Wilton 445, repr), as an illustration to Milton's Poetical Works of about 1834 published 1835 (Wilton 1269, repr), and a watercolour of about 1836 to be engraved for England and Wales in 1838 (Wilton 880, repr). The present work shows the same view as the 1812 watercolour, although the height of the Mount is increased.

Arnold's Magazine (July 1834) thought it 'one of the most conspicuous' of the exhibits, and 'although the scene cannot be said to convey a literal idea of the object chosen for representation, we have little doubt it corresponds precisely with that which the artist had conjured up in his imagination'. The Morning Post critic (17 July 1834) described it as 'a favourable specimen of his new style of painting; but we ourselves are old-fashioned enough to prefer his discarded one as coming more within the limits of our comprehension, and nearer, as we think, to nature'. The Spectator (10 May 1834) compared it with Callcott's 'Recollection of the Campagna of Rome': 'The difference of these, the two first English landscape painters, is made strikingly evident. Callcott's colours look opaque and heavy, and Turner's painting unsubstantial and visionary' . Twenty years later, Waagen thought that 'The bold, precipitous rock, and the manner in which it is lighted, give this picture a poetical charm' (Treasures of Art in Great Britain 1854, II, p30S). A small (16.5 X 22.2 cm/6 ½ X 8 ¾ ins) oil sketch was recorded in a private collection in 1952, as was a copy after the work in 1972. Another copy (87.6 X 113.1 cm/ 34½ × 44 ½ ins), supposedly also painted in 1834, was in the original Russell-Cotes collection given to the museum of that name in Bournemouth.

Engraved by J. Cousen in Art Journal 1859, facing p240, and Turner Gallery 1859, repr in A Hayden Chats on Old Prints 1906, p228; W Miller 1866

Historical context note

JMW Turner was born Covent Garden, London, 23 April 1775, son of a barber. Entered RA Schools 1789. In a long and exceptionally distinguished career, exhibited 259 works at the RA between 1790 and 1850 and 17 at the BI 1806-1846, predominantly landscapes, sometimes with historical themes. Generally considered the greatest painter in the history of British art. Died Chelsea, London, 19 December 1851 and buried in St Paul's Cathedral. Bequeathed his extensive collection of oil paintings and watercolours to the nation, now principally housed in the Clore wing of the Tate Gallery.

Descriptive line

Oil painting entitled 'St Michael's Mount, Cornwall' by J. M. W. Turner. Great Britain, ca. 1834.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, London & New Haven 1977, vol. I, pp188-9 (cat no 358)

Ronald Parkinson"Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860, Ronald Parkinson, Victoria and Albert Museum, London: HMSO, 1990, pp. 283-84
Vikutoria & Arub?to Bijutsukan-z? : eikoku romanshugi kaigaten = The Romantic tradition in British painting, 1800-1950 : masterpieces from the Victoria and Albert Museum / selected by Mark Evans [Japan : Brain Trust], 2002. 185 p. : ill. (chiefly col.) ; 30 cm.

Materials

Oil paint; Canvas

Techniques

Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Beaches; Fishermen; Seas

Categories

Paintings

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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