Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Marine Picture in a Frame; a Wharf or Bank with Objects on the Shore near It and Shipping at Sea Beyond


View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Graphite on paper
Support: 225 x 329 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Catalogue entry

With the page turned horizontally, both these slight sketches, one spreading across the whole sheet, the other a thumbnail sketch of a picture in a frame in the upper left corner, seem to allude to the same composition, that of the painting Sun Rising through Vapour; Fishermen Cleaning and Selling Fish, which Turner exhibited in 1807 (National Gallery, London).1 They vary markedly in touch, the thumbnail sketch being firmly drawn, the larger one tentative and indistinct, and it is not necessarily the case that they were drawn as early as 1799, when this sketchbook was mainly used, or for that matter both drawn at the same time: the fainter sketch has the air of having been jotted down along with other rough beginnings here, such as folios 2 recto and 5 verso (D01913, D01917), while the thumbnail sketch looks later.
However, they may be very early ideas for the picture, and the inscription suggests that Turner originally conceived the subject as one of a pair, the other to represent a storm at sea. In the event, Sun Rising through Vapour appeared as an independent work; but it would have been natural for Turner to have wished to emphasize its thematic contrast to the tempestuous marines that he was painting around the turn of the century. Many years later, it was destined to be hung as one of a pair, not with a storm scene but with the 1815 painting Dido Building Carthage; or the Rise of the Carthaginian Empire in the National Gallery,2 according to the terms of Turner’s will.

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.53–4 no.69, pl.79 (colour).
Ibid., pp.94–6 no.131, pl.133 (colour).

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