Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Boat Full of People in a Rough Sea, with Shipping Beyond


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Chalk on paper
Support: 271 × 436 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXXXI 70

Catalogue entry

With the page turned horizontally, this is one of a series of drawings in this book in which Turner recreates a dangerous moment during his crossing from England to France in 1802; see folios 30 verso–31 recto and 37 recto (D04960–D04961, D04973; Turner Bequest LXXXI 58–59, 71). Finberg, who assumed that Turner took this book with him to France, says:
Turner probably enjoyed the experience as the boat rode in on the waves and was flung aground amid the flying spray. Before the other passengers could land he was on the pier, watching the waves beating against the wooden jetty and the French fishermen putting out to sea. We gather all this from the pages of his sketch–book...1
However, it is much more likely that all these drawings were made later, in England, from memory, in this book which would have been unwieldy in such stressful conditions. There are drawings in other, more pocketable books, such as the Small Calais Pier sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest LXXI), that he may well have made at the time. There are many resemblances between this drawing and the design of a painting Turner had shown at the Royal Academy just before his departure for France, Fishermen upon a Lee–Shore, in Squally Weather (Southampton Art Gallery).2 That too shows a single boat among breakers, with shipping and a jetty in the background.

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

See Alexander J. Finberg, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A. Second Edition, Revised, with a Supplement, by Hilda F. Finberg, revised ed., Oxford 1961, p.82.
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.15–16 no.16, pl.12 (colour).

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