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Shipping seen in profile against the horizon was a favourite pictorial device inherited from Dutch marine painting. Britain’s military strength and commercial prosperity was, like that of the Netherlands, founded on its naval prowess and the British shared the Dutch enthusiasm for paintings of ships on the ocean. Turner’s early sea pictures nearly always integrate ships or boats into the composition.

The wooden structure in the foreground is a groyne, a protective device built between the shore and the sea to prevent the beach from washing away.

April 2005