Joseph Mallord William Turner

Storm Clouds, Perhaps above a Beach

c.1840–5

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: 247 x 304 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D35875
Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 36

Display caption

The modern concept of abstraction would not have been understood or endorsed in the nineteenth century, even by an artist as experimental as Turner. He would not have intended these late, loose colour beginnings to have been exhibited during his lifetime.

Nevertheless, in each of these works the elements of the composition are reduced to the barest representation of sea and sky. These private, informal studies reveal Turner’s intuitive ability to think of landscape in terms of pure colour.

Gallery label, April 2005

Catalogue entry

While less obviously coastal in their setting compared to some of the similar cloudscapes addressed in John Chu’s section of ‘Coastal Scenes and Shipping’ after 1827 elsewhere in this catalogue, this and the compositionally similar Tate D35874 (Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 35) may be beach scenes, with flecks of red here suggesting the approach of sunset catching the edges of the high clouds.
Examples of such scenes, with strong horizons about half-way up the sheet and dated by common consent to the early 1840s, have been discussed by Amy Concannon, associating them with Turner’s customary stays overlooking the broad sweep of the sea at Margate in Kent; they include Tate D35397, D36302, D36309 and D36310 (Turner Bequest CCCLVII 11, CCCLXV 12, 19, 20).1 While most of the works in this subsection have been dated to between 1820 and 1840 (see the Introduction), this and D35874 are dated subsequently by association with other works as discussed.
1
See Amy Concannon, ‘Horizons: Sea and Sky’ in David Blayney Brown, Concannon and Sam Smiles (eds.), Late Turner: Painting Set Free, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2014, pp.204–5.
Technical notes:
There is a very small hole to the right of centre.
Verso:
Blank; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram above ‘CCCLXIV – 36’ bottom right.

Matthew Imms
March 2016

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