Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Departure of the Fleet

exhibited 1850

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 899 x 1203 mm
frame: 1297 x 1607 x 185 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
N00554

Display caption

The Departure of the Fleet is one of four paintings exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1850. A visitor to Turner’s studio stated that the artist ‘went from one to the other, first painting upon one, touching on the next and so on, in rotation’.

The artist finished the canvas on the walls of the RA, and curators and conservators have tried to determine which areas Turner might have adjusted at the final moment. This question is made difficult by changes in surface appearance over time. Could the three areas of red paint highlighted in this illustration have been added on Varnishing Day?

Gallery label, February 2010

Catalogue entry

432. [N00554] The Departure of the Fleet Exh. 1850

THE TATE GALLERY, LONDON (554)

Canvas, 35 3/8 × 47 3/8 (89·5 × 120·5)

Coll. Turner Bequest 1856 (31, ‘The departure of the Fleet’ 4'0" × 3'0"); transferred to the Tate Gallery 1905.

Exh. R.A. 1850 (482); Arts Council tour 1952 (24).

Lit. Thornbury 1862, i, p. 349; 1877, p. 467; Hamerton 1879, pp. 297–8; Bell 1901, p. 160 no. 268; Armstrong 1902, p. 233; MacColl 1920, p. 26; Davies 1946, p. 186; Finberg 1961, pp. 427, 511 no. 589; Rothenstein and Butlin 1964, p. 73; Ziff 1964, pp. 24–7, pl. 3; Lindsay 19662, p. 52; Gage 1969, pp. 98, 187, 244 n. 105; Reynolds 1969, pp. 204–5; Wilton 1979, p. 223.

Exhibited in 1850 with the lines:

‘The orient moon shone on the departing fleet,
Nemesis invoked, the priest held the poisoned cup. ’

MS. Fallacies of Hope.

Dido and her attendants, on the left, watch the departure of the fleet. For contemporary press criticisms of this picture see No. 429 [N00553].

Published in:
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984