Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study for ‘Dutch Boats in a Gale: Fishermen Endeavouring to Put their Fish on Board (“The Bridgewater Seapiece”)’

c.1799–1801

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

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Chalk on paper
Dimensions
Support: 436 x 271 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D05028
Turner Bequest LXXXI 126

Catalogue entry

Inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation, the subject is continued on folio 65 recto opposite (D05029; Turner Bequest LXXXI 127). It is a vigorous depiction of the life of fishermen in small boats in difficult conditions, reminding us that the drama of Turner’s picture hinges on an event in human lives, and not simply on natural conditions. The figures are individualised with clearly defined activities, while participating in a drama that is broadly articulated in terms of light and shade.
The bold chiaroscuro and expressive use of pen and brown ink are both characteristics that seem to reflect the influence of pen drawings by Rembrandt (1606–1669),1 and it is an interesting coincidence that one memorable comment on the finished picture, exhibited in 1801 as Dutch Boats in a Gale: Fishermen Endeavouring to Put their Fish on Board (‘The Bridgewater Seapiece’; private collection, on loan to the National Gallery, London),2 came from the Royal Academy’s President, Benjamin West (1738–1820), who reportedly said it was ‘what Rembrandt thought of but could not do.’3
For further studies for the painting in this sketchbook, see under folio 54 verso (D05008; Turner Bequest LXXXI 106).

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

1
See Michael Kitson, ‘Turner and Claude’, Turner Studies, vol.2, no.2, Winter 1982, p.3.
2
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.12–13 no.14, pl.11 (colour).
3
Entry for 18 April 1801, in Kenneth Garlick and Angus Macintyre eds., The Diary of Joseph Farington, vol.IV, New Haven and London 1979, p.1539.

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