Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study of a Boat


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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 108 x 203 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCIII E

Technique and condition

This work by Turner is graphite sketch on a medium weight, off-white laid paper. The appearance of the sketch is soft and seemingly quite quick. The graphite marks depict a soft and gently executed image. Smudging and the odd harder graphite mark have been used to add shading or definition.

The torn upper edge of this support marries up with the lower edge of D17764 (which in tern marries with the lower edge of D17763) meaning that all three supports originated from one. There is a good deal of engrained surface dirt, though given the soft smudgy nature of this sketch it is not apparent where the graphite ends and the dirt starts. Otherwise, this work has been preserved well by the structural support a previous lining paper provided and is in quite good condition.

Jo Gracey
October 2001

Catalogue entry

This drawing is part of a group of sketches of boats which were formerly all on one sheet (Tate D17763–D17766; Turner Bequest CCIII F–I).1 Finberg lists the present drawing and others in this group as possible studies for the Rivers of England watercolour The Mouth of the River Humber (Tate D18151; Turner Bequest CCVIII R).2
Parts of two vessels are depicted here. The section of hull represented in the foregrounded boat resembles that of the Billy-boy river barge in the Humber design. The arresting diagonal sweep and span of the sail evokes the strength and velocity of the wind as sailors to the left congregate to control the rigging. Turner’s handling is fine and deliberate, the delineation of the mast and hull particularly so. The second vessel is more roughly rendered; its masts and billowing sails can be seen as well as the crew.

Alice Rylance-Watson
March 2013

Warrell 1991, p.66 no.77
Finberg 1909, vol.I, p.616.

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