Joseph Mallord William Turner

Shipping at the Entrance of the Medway

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: 216 x 282 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by W.G. Rawlinson 1913
Reference
N02942

Catalogue entry

Provenance:
...
Henry Vaughan by 1878
...
Sir John Charles Robinson by 1896
...
Gerald Robinson by 1906 and in 1908
...
William George Rawlinson by 1911
Engraved:
(see main catalogue entry)
This drawing has long been categorised as an unengraved design for the Liber Studiorum. Its title is traditional, and the composition does indeed relate in spirit to Turner’s various 1800s oils of shipping in the blustery Thames Estuary and the entrance to the Medway on its southern, Kentish shore. The dredger in the distance may be a recollection of the one in a similar position in The Confluence of the Thames and the Medway, exhibited in 1808 and subsequently in Lord Egremont’s collection (Tate T03874, displayed at Petworth House, West Sussex);1 Sheerness and the Isle of Sheppey, with the Junction of the Thames and the Medway, from the Nore, exhibited in 1807 (National Gallery of Art, Washington),2 features a small boat and buoy in the foreground in a similar conjunction.
The ship towards the middle of The Mouth of the Thames, possibly exhibited in 1807 (destroyed),3 is a mirror image of the one in the centre of the present composition, and the coastline of the Isle of Sheppey in the distance is similar. The ship in monochrome silhouette tacking to the right in the oil sketch of about the same date, Shipping at the Mouth of the Thames (Tate N02702),4 shows an almost identical configuration of sails, and was perhaps the direct source; the small boat just to the left of centre in the painting, with its lowered sail, is similar to the one in the foreground of the drawing. Thus it seems that Turner is here conflating various elements from these oils, either directly or from memory, as he had to a lesser degree in rearranging the elements of the source painting for the Liber design known as Ships in a Breeze (see Tate D08114; Turner Bequest CXVI M); incidentally, the nearest ship in the latter is again similar (albeit reversed) to the central one in the present design, which Rawlinson declared in the first edition of his Liber catalogue to be ‘[a]lso known as “Ships in a Breeze.”’5
1
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.57–8 no.75, pl.85 (colour).
2
Ibid., pp.49–50 no.62, pl.73.
3
Ibid., p.52 no.67, pl.77 (showing engraving).
4
Ibid., p.119 no.175, pl.175 (colour).
5
Rawlinson 1878, p.176.
6
Forrester 1996, p.16.
7
Ibid., and p.25 note 91.
8
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.386 nos.746, 749, reproduced.
9
Ibid., p.387 no.755, reproduced.
10
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.191–2 no.339, pl.342.
11
Rawlinson 1878, p.176.
12
Hardie 1938, p.75.
13
Ibid., p.74 no.43.
14
Ibid., p.75 no.44, reproduced p.[123] pl.XXII.
15
Rawlinson 1906, p.203.
16
Strange 1908, p.50 under no.194, p.50.
17
Liber Studiorum, 1911, p.120.
1
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files.

Matthew Imms
May 2006

Read full Catalogue entry

Explore

You might like