The Art of the Sublime

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Shipwreck exhibited 1805

Joseph Mallord William Turner 'The Shipwreck' exhibited 1805
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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
The Shipwreck exhibited 1805
Oil paint on canvas
support: 1705 x 2416 mm; frame: 2085 x 2795 x 235 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Tate N00476
Shipwrecks and other disasters at sea were a recurrent theme in Romantic painting. They demonstrated the primal force of the elements, a nightmare for all who travelled far from home. Turner retained a lifelong passion for the sea. We don’t know whether this painting was inspired by an actual shipwreck, or the reissue in 1804 of a famous poem on the theme by William Falconer. Turner defines the essence of such an experience through overwhelming impressions of realism and horror. The dark tonality, characteristic of Turner’s early paintings, provides a foil to the white crests and swirls of the waves.

How to cite

Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Shipwreck exhibited 1805, in Nigel Llewellyn and Christine Riding (eds.), The Art of the Sublime, January 2013, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/the-sublime/joseph-mallord-william-turner-the-shipwreck-r1105577, accessed 22 September 2014.