Joseph Mallord William Turner

Vessels at Sea

c.1821–2

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

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 113 x 187 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D17358
Turner Bequest CXCVIII 88 a

Catalogue entry

The composition on this page describes sailing vessels out at sea, as articulated by Finberg.1 However, this identification does not convey the vulnerability of those vessels or the tumultuous storm at the eye of which they find themselves.
The ships are delineated to the right of centre, each one reduced to a single line for the hull and minimal markings for the mast and unfurled sails. The bottom quadrant of the page is left blank, but the left side and top half are filled with scarce but evocative lines to denote the height and depth of the storm’s power. At left, the markings are sweeping and long; at right they become compressed like taught springs above the fragile ships.
Turner takes up this theme for a second time on folio 89 verso (D17360), and a third on folio 90 verso (D17362).

Maud Whatley
January 2016

1
Finberg 1909, I, p.606.

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