Art Collections Online

The Beacon Light

TURNER, Joseph Mallord William (1775 - 1851)

The Beacon Light

Media: oil on canvas

Size: 61.5 x 96.0 cm

Acquired: 1952; Bequest; Gwendoline Davies

Accession Number: NMW A 433

Collection: The Davies Sisters Collection

This painting was rejected as genuine in 1956 and in the 1977 complete catalogue of Turner’s paintings is described as ‘a partly reworked fragment; with a ‘curiously unauthentic appearance’ that ‘has certainly been worked on by a hand other than Turner’s.  After recent investigations into the materials and technique it is now accepted as genuine and solely the hand of Turner. 

Turner captures the effect of light on a raging sea and the spray from the waves crashing against the cliff.   His intention here was to explore the nature of the sea under a changing sky, rather than to depict a specific place.  However, the discovery of a painted out lighthouse on the cliff edge has prompted new research into a possible location.  Traditionally said to show The Needles, Isle of Wight, it is now thought to depict the coastline from St Margaret’s-at-Cliffe, north of Dover looking towards the South Foreland Lighthouse, where there was both a beacon and a lighthouse.  There is evidence that Turner may have had a house at St Margaret’s-at-Cliffe around the date of this painting. 

Gwendoline Davies purchased Beacon Light for £2,625 at auction through Hugh Blaker in June 1922. 


Karl Jensen
9 May 2022, 15:37
Hello National Museum Wales,

I have only recently found and started watching with great interest the BBC show Fake or Fortune.

I want to pass along some images I have found on Google Books pertaining to Turner's The Beacon Light. I don't think the Fake or Fortune show mentioned in provenance that Ralph Brocklebank Esq. had owned the painting before the Davies sisters. While it was in his possession it was attributed to Turner, even listed as a Turner in Sir Walter Armstong's 1902 book Turner. Funny that it should have developed such doubt later that Philip Mould and Fiona Bruce were able to put to rest.

I would guess you are already aware of all this, but in case you are not, I would be happy to share my findings if you would give me an email address to accept them.


Karl Jensen
New Jersey, USA
Jennifer Dudley Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales Staff
26 November 2021, 10:32

Hi Tina,

Thank you for your enquiry. This work does not have a signature on it. In fact, it has an interesting history as its authorship by Turner was once disputed and it was the subject of a BBC show called 'Fake or Fortune'.

Best wishes,
Jennifer Dudley
Curator: Art Collections Management and Access

8 October 2021, 06:44
Is there any type of inscription (signature) on the painting?
7 April 2014, 22:19

i recognised this cliff immediately it is the beach that i spent my childhood on, not off the cost of Margate, not even in Thanet, but it's the cliff that dominates the beach at St Margarets Bay in between Dover and Deal on the south east kent coast.

wonderful painting and even more wonderful place,

Jo Blackham
2 October 2012, 15:56
I do so hope that this will be available from your 'print on demand' service. Since I saw it on the BBC I've been haunted by it - in a good way - and would love to have a copy.
John Rowlands Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales Staff
24 September 2012, 16:36

Here's a link to the exhibition page:

J.M.W. Turner: The Davies Collection

John Rowlands Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales Staff
24 September 2012, 11:46
Thank you all for the comments, and you will be pleased to hear that as of tomorrow (25 Sept) Amgueddfa Cymru
24 September 2012, 11:45
Very much looking forward to seeing the re-appraised Turners take their place in the gallery soon.
They are wonderful.
24 September 2012, 11:13
I found the history of this painting fascinating and would very much like to plan a visit to Wales to see this and the other Turners in the collection. I really do hope that you now have plans to put these on permanent display
Ceri Davies
23 September 2012, 20:22
Will Beacon Light along with Off Margate and Margate Jetty be on display soon following the BBC programme tonight concerning previous doubts about their provenance now apparently dispelled?
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