Granville (or 'Grandville' in Thornbury's spelling) is a small fishing port by a rocky peninsular off the west coast of Normandy, about 25 kilometres (16 miles), north-north-west of Avranches on the northern tip of the bay of Mont St. Michel. Turner visited Granville in 1826 on his way to the Loire, leaving London at the end of August; he had reached Cherbourg by 9 September. There are drawings (some relating to our watercolour) in the Coutances and Mont St. Michel sketchbook (Tate Britain, Turner Bequest CCL, pp. 4-7, 15, as of circa 1830; for the date 1826 see Warrell, op.cit., p. 31, one example illustrated. fig. 18). The present view shows the town from the beach to the north.
The main product of Turner's 1826 tour was the series of prints published in Turner's Annual Tour, 1833: Wanderings by the Loire, with text by Leitch Ritchie, but our watercolour is one of a small group done for the publishers John and Arthur Arch, to be engraved by William Miller and 'to be called "The English Channel or La Manche", to consist of views taken by him [Turner] on both sides of the Channel in the manner of Views of the Southern Coast' - the series published by W.B. Cooke in 1814-1826. Warrell identifies two further views as painted for this project, Le Havre (Indianapolis Museum of Art; Wilton, op.cit., p. 224, no. 1048, illustrated, and Krause, op.cit., pp. 175-176, illustrated in colour) and The Jute: a jousting contest at St. Vaast-la-Hougue, Normandy (Denver Art Museum; illustrated in colour, Warrell, op.cit., fig. 167). Possible English views are Fishing Boats on Folkstone Beach (National Gallery of Ireland; Wilton, p. 403, no. 884, illustrated.), Shipwreck off Hastings (National Gallery of Ireland; Wilton, p. 358, no. 511, illustrated) and Shoreham (Art Gallery and Museum, Blackburn; Wilton, p. 403, no. 883, illustrated). Drawings for the French subjects in this group, including Granville, are in the Turner Bequest (CCXX A-L). Our watercolour follows the silhouette of the town in the distance from a separate pencil drawing (TB CCCXCIV 57). (For these works and the English Channel project see Warrell, op.cit., pp. 158-171.)
The early provenance of our drawing, before its ownership by John Ruskin, is also based on the researches of Ian Warrell (op.cit., p. 211, n. 19). Charles Stokes (1785-1853) was Turner's stockbroker as well as a leading amateur geologist, antiquary, lithographer and collector; he was a Fellow of the Geographical Society of London, the Antiquaries and the Royal Society. A contemporary wrote of him that he was 'almost a universal collector...his rooms exhibit a most picturesque confusion of learned wealth, literary, scientific and artistical' (H.B. Woodward, The History of the Geographical Society of London, vol. X, London, 1854, pp. xxvi-xxvii, quoted in Krause, op.cit., p. 699). He owned many of Turner's Southern Coast and Loire watercolours, most being now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and his collection of Liber Studiorum prints, which he was the first to catalogue, was unparalled. Much of his collection went to his niece Hannah, who married the Rev. James Cooper, third Master of St. Paul's School 1824-1861, and her journals recording his collection and her disposal of parts of it are now at the Indianapolis Museum (for our watercolour see vol. 2, pp. 10 and 14, reprinted in Krause, loc. cit.; for Stokes, his niece and the papers in general see also L. Herrmann, 'Ruskin and Turner: A Riddle Resolved', Burlington Magazine, vol. CXII, 1970, pp. 696-699).