Lot 417
  • 417

JOSEPH MALLORD WILLIAM TURNER, R.A. | Sun-rise. Whiting Fishing at Margate

800,000 - 1,200,000 GBP
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  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
  • Sun-rise. Whiting Fishing at Margate
  • Watercolour over pencil, heightened with bodycolour, scratching out and stopping out;signed and dated lower left: J.M.W. Turner 1822
  • 426 by 648 mm.


Commissioned by William Bernard Cooke (1778-1855);
Benjamin Godfrey Windus (1790-1867);
John Edward Fordham (1799-1880), by 1861, 
by descent to his daughter-in-law, Mrs John Hampden Fordham, née Catherine Lawson (1836-1909),
by descent to her son Alexander Russell Fordham (1873-1945),
his sale, London, Christie's, 20 April 1917, lot 58, bt. King;
Henry Folland (1876-1926),
Mrs Henry Folland, C.B.E., née Thomas (1874-1957),
her sale, London, Christie’s, 5 October 1945, lot 5; bt. Mitchell,
with The Mitchell Gallery, London,
from where acquired by the father of the present owner, 1945 Engraved:

by Thomas Lupton, 1825;
a reduced version also by Lupton was published in 1834;
a chromo-lithograph was published by M. & N. Hanhart, circa 1852-6


London, W.B. Cooke Gallery, 9 Soho Square, 1823, as ‘Margate Sunrise’;
London, Royal Academy, Winter Exhibition, 1886, lent by Mrs Fordham;
New Haven, Yale Center for British Art, and Paris, Petit Palais, Richard Parkes Bonington 'On the Pleasure of Painting', 1991-1992, no. 48;
London, Agnew's, Turner Watercolours, 1994, no. 6;
Canberra, National Gallery of Australia and Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria, Turner, 1996, unnumbered;
London, Royal Academy, J.M.W. Turner: The Great Watercolours, 2000-2001, no. 57;
London, Tate Britain, and Minneapolis, Minneapolis Art Gallery, Constable to Delacroix British Art and the French Romantics, 2003, no. 158;
London, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, Turner and the Sea, 2014, no. 45;
Margate, Turner Contemporary, Turner and Colour, 2016, unnumbered;
New York, The Frick Collection, Turner’s Ancient and Modern Ports, 2017, no. 19


Sir Walter Armstrong, Turner, London 1902, p. 265;
W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, London 1908-13, p. 373, II, p. 373, no. 772; 
A. Wilton, The Life and Works of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, no. 507;
E. Shanes, Turner’s England 1810-1838, London 1990, p. 119, no. 94


Condition Report by Jane McAusland Supports Turner has used a sheet of wove-type Whatman paper as a support for this large watercolour, watermarked: J WHATMAN TURKEY MILL 1822 The condition of the sheet is very good. There is a small original crease in the sky centre left and a small supported tear lower left on the foot edge with a related crease below the centre. The sheet is lightly lined with lens tissue. The verso shows some old foxing, mostly in the lower part of the sheet. Medium The watercolour medium is very fresh and bright and also the delicate, mixed tints are bright in places, though in the thinner washed areas there is a slight drop back in tonality. Summary This watercolour is in a very good condition considering it has probably been glazed for many years and the good quality paper has lasted well. The colours are generally in a good strong condition.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1822, Sun-rise. Whiting Fishing at Margate is one the greatest and most beautiful Turner watercolours to remain in private hands. Having been much exhibited, it is a celebrated picture which sees the artist working at the height of his powers and on a grand scale. Turner has positioned himself off the Kentish coast at Margate, a fishing port and soon-to-be fashionable seaside resort, which he had first visited as a small boy and which he regularly returned to throughout his life. He looks east and directly into a stupendous sunrise, whose magical light gives warmth to everything it touches, before exploding into a myriad of colours on the glass-like surface of the sea.

Despite the early hour, the silence of night has given way to the sounds and activities of day. On the left, far in the distance, a guardship announces the dawn by firing its morning gun, while in the foreground, fishermen have already struck lucky and are excitedly hauling in a plentiful catch. Through the cluster of small vessels, the town itself can be made out. Captain Hooper’s Mill dominates the skyline, while to the right, the pier, the light-house and the entrance to the harbour are all visible.

Sun-rise. Whiting Fishing at Margate forms part of a highly regarded group of watercolours that were painted between 1822 and 1824 and that were intended to be engraved and published under the collective title of Marine Views. Turner worked, as he had done earlier in his career, with the publisher William Bernard Cooke, who planned to release the prints onto the market over a number of years. In the event, due to a rift that developed between the two men in 1826, only two mezzotint engravings were, in fact, released: those after the present work and an earlier watercolour entitled The Eddystone Lighthouse (Private Collection).

Nonetheless, before the breakdown in relations, Turner had poured much energy into the scheme and it is thought that he painted five or six major watercolours in connection with it. These are: Dover Castle, 1822 (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), A Storm, 1823 (The British Museum, London), Twilight - Smugglers off Folkstone fishing up Smuggled Gin, 1824 (Private Collection), Fish Market, Hastings, 1824 (Hastings Museum of Art) and Folkestone From the Sea (Tate Britain). These works are conceived on the same scale as the present picture, and together, they have been described as - ‘some of [Turner’s] finest marine watercolours.’1

In both 1823 and 1824, Cooke exhibited a number of these works at his newly refurbished picture gallery at 9 Soho Square, London. The 1823 exhibition included three of the watercolours and the placement of the following advertisement in The Literary Gazette not only confirms the presence of Sun-rise. Whiting Fishing at Margate but also suggests that it was a great highlight: ‘Exhibition: 9 Soho Square - Two superb drawings by J.M.W. Turner R.A. will be added to this splendid collection on Monday next, May 19th and will be placed in the centre of the rooms. A STORM and A SUN-RISE. These powerful productions, from the pencil of Mr Turner (being just finished), will continue a few weeks only for public inspection…. Open from 10 until dusk, admittance 1s.’

Sun-rise. Whiting Fishing at Margate is indeed as ‘powerful’, as it is ambitious and avant-garde. It is Turner’s largest watercolour of Margate and it incorporates all the audacious ingenuity of his mature technique. Furthermore, its grand composition and bold palette demonstrate, once again, his determination that the medium of watercolour could and should be placed on the same pedestal as oil paintings.

The work has a particularly interesting and full provenance. Commissioned by Cooke, it was acquired by Benjamin Godfrey Windus (1790-1867), the carriage-maker and major Turner collector from Tottenham Green in North London. In February 1852, the Gentleman’s Magazine recorded ‘It is at Mr. Windus’s on Tottenham Green that Turner is on his throne. There he may be studied, understood - and admired – not in half-a-dozen or twenty instances, but in scores upon scores of choice examples.’ In 1835, Windus commissioned John Scarlett Davis to paint a watercolour of his library. This work is preserved in the British Museum and provides a fascinating record of how he displayed some of his legendary collection.2 (fig. 1)

By the time of his death, Windus had sold all but one of his Turners, and Sun-rise. Whiting Fishing at Margate’s next recorded owner was the prominent financier John Edward Fordham. He lived with his wife Harriet, née Gurney at the Manor House, Melbourn Bury in Cambridgeshire and together they assembled a fine collection of works by the artist, including the superb Lake Nemi (circa 1840), a watercolour that had also belonged to Windus and is now held at the British Museum in London.3

Later, Sun-rise. Whiting Fishing at Margate entered the collection of Henry Folland, a Welshman who rose from humble beginnings (he was the son of a steelworker) to run the largest tin-plate company in Europe. One of the great industrialists of his day, he was High Sheriff of Carmarthenshire and a generous philanthropist. His wife, Leah Norah, - known as - ‘Lily’ -, was equally remarkable, and in 1939, was awarded a C.B.E. (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) by King George VI for her services to the political and public life of South Wales.

Mrs Folland sold Sun-rise. Whiting Fishing at Margate at Christie’s in 1945 and it was acquired by the Mitchell Gallery on behalf of the current owner’s father. In 1979, in an extraordinary episode, the picture was stolen and was subsequently purchased by the unsuspecting Yale Center for British Art, New Haven. It remained there until 1993 when a case for its identity as the family's missing work was made by the Turner scholar and chairman of Agnew’s Evelyn Joll (1925-2001). Upon learning of the unfortunate situation Paul Mellon (1907-1999) immediately agreed to return the work to its rightful owners, where it has been a much-loved treasure ever since.

1. E. Shanes, op. cit, p. 12
2. E. Shanes, 'Picture Note', Turner Studies, Winter 1984, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 55-8; see also S. Whittingham,'The Turner Collector, Benjamin Godfrey Windus 1790-1867,' Turner Studies, Winter 1987, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 29-35 
3. A. Wilton, op. cit., p. 466, no. 1381