Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Sea Piece

c.1807–19

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

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 230 x 379 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D08089
Turner Bequest CXV 6

Catalogue entry

This perfunctory beginning of a composition comprises rapid sweeps and scribbles of a single, very wet wash apparently indicating a rainstorm, with a horizontal band which Finberg, probably correctly, interpreted as the sea. The composition, focused on a bright central motif – a wave breaking, perhaps against a rock, or simply a gap in the clouds at this stage? – is developed on the next page (Tate D08090; Turner Bequest CXV 7). There is no obvious link to any of the developed Liber Studiorum designs, although rough seas and stormy skies occur among them (see for example Ships in a Breeze: drawing, Tate D08154; Turner Bequest CXVI M). In the absence of specific evidence, the span of the Liber Studiorum’s active publication, 1807–19, is given here as a date range for the present work (as it is for various other unpublished designs).
Technical notes:
The paper is from a batch watermarked ‘J Whatman | 1807’.1 This sheet was recorded by Finberg in 1909 as apparently still being in the sketchbook, but if so it was subsequently removed before the book was badly damaged by immersion in the basement of the Tate Gallery during the Thames flood of January 1928. His number, ‘6’, corresponds with the red ink folio numbers inscribed in the book by Ruskin. The whole sheet was taken from the book, leaving no stub, and then trimmed irregularly at the left-hand edge along the stitching holes.
1
Notes by Peter Bower, Tate conservation files.
Verso:
Blank, save for inscriptions.
Inscribed in pencil ‘D.08089’ bottom left
Stamped in black ‘CXV 6’ bottom left
There is thin tape all round the edges where the sheet was previously mounted.

Matthew Imms
May 2006

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