watercolor over pencil underdrawing on paper laid down to a heavier paper.
image: 6 1/4 x 8 7/8" (160 x 225mm), inscribed at center, below image: Scarborough.
The extraordinary quality of the present watercolor might lead one to think it is an autograph replica by Turner, but Ian Wardrell of the Tate does not accept replicas unless they are documented, ie. specified by Turner. Lesser copies of this famous watercolor which is in the Tate (D18142) are known. After Turner died, his bequest to the nation, made in 1856, meant that many of his works went to the South Kensington Museum and were later removed to the National Gallery. Ruskin, ever the very great admirer of Turner, believed that as a teacher, his job was to show people how to understand and love Turner. He also insisted that artists could learn much from copying his works which they did, most often not signing their copies. Thus today we are at a loss for attributing them. Even the replicas made by William Ward (1829-1908) which were promoted, acquired, and exhibited by Ruskin, are not easily identifiable. Ward's copies were deemed by Ruskin to be identical to the originals and he dared anyone to tell the difference. Perhaps, then, as the present work has such fidelity to the original, it is by William Ward.
By 1857, Ruskin recommended Ward, his former pupil, for teaching drawing, the skill he thought essential to understanding all works of art. It was also the year Ward turned his attention to copying Turner. By 1877, Ward's copies that were owned by Ruskin, were loaned for the first exhibition of the Fine Art Society on New Bond Street. From that time until 1890, Ward reproduced Turner's watercolors and they were much in demand. Ward met the American critic and connoisseur Charles Elliot Norton who promoted his replicas in the States.1 It could be then that the present work was actually made for the American market.
Ruskin mentions that Turner was fond of Scarborough as a subject and that there are at least four drawings by him of it, if not more, under different effects, though all have a starfish on the beach.2 Ruskin points out the tranquility or serenity of this version and how it is achieved by reflection and repetition as well as the early morning light.3
Another copy of Scarborough is at the Clark Art Museum, Williamstown, Mass. It is also, like the present drawing, the same size as Turner's original.
All of the information in this paragraph was gleaned from Google's on-line book, John Ruskin's Letters to William Ward, with a biography of Ward by his son, William C. Ward, f irst published in Boston in 1922.
J. Ruskin, The Harbours of England. Engraved by Thomas Lupton from original drawings made expressly for the work by J.M.W. Turner, R.A.., London, 1856, pp 74-75 in a footnote.
Ruskin, op. cit., pp. 73-76.