Technique and condition
This watercolour is in the small-scale Studies near Brighton sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest XXX) made from several sheets each of white wove Whatman paper and strong blue laid wrapping paper. The latter has its chain lines running horizontally. Often, paper is set up for painting with the lines running vertically, as Turner used it here, by rotating the sketchbook. This sketchbook was probably bound by William Dickie at 120 Strand, London, who bound many of Turner’s sketchbooks, often using paper supplied by Turner himself.1 A similar blue paper is found in the Wilson sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest XXXVII), and throughout the Wilson sketchbook and in a minority of pages in this one, Turner also prepared some of the blue pages with a red wash, to give a deep red-brown background which has by now lost some of its intensity.
Turner chose to use the smoother, plain white paper. Light sketching with a fine graphite pencil established the main structure of the barge, and enabled a reserve of blank paper to be kept for the more intense colours to be used for the figures. The rigging was indicated similarly, with graphite pencil. Individual watercolour washes were applied with a thin brush and considerable attention to placement to create the barge and its rigging. This is a record for future use rather than a spontaneous sketch, with the only freely-painted or indeed improvised elements being the two figures and the shadow cast by the barge. Pigments used include Prussian blue for one of the figures (this pigment is brighter and more intense than the indigo Turner typically used for skies and in mixed greens at this date), a yellow lake, several shades of ochre, and indigo mixed with the ochres for the grey tones.
Peter Bower, ‘Turner’s Papers: A Catalogue of the Papers Used by J.M.W. Turner in the Turner Bequest, Clore Gallery, Tate Gallery. Part 1: 1787–1802: TB I–TB LXX’, 1994, Tate catalogue files, unpaginated.
The subject is inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation.