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This is one of three oil sketches at Tate for a painting commissioned by George IV’s architect John Nash (Indianapolis Museum of Art). Turner stayed with Nash at his self-designed castle on the Isle of Wight. Since demolished, it gleams here on the distant hill, near the future site of Osborne House. This was only the second Cowes Regatta. The sketches were possibly begun on board a ship moored in the Solent. Turner’s interest in seventeenth-century Dutch sea painting and his delight in this modern sporting occasion combine in a dynamic composition, in contrast to its calm companion piece.

February 2010