Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Classical Harbour


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Pen and ink on paper
Support: 150 × 258 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XC 50 a

Display caption

In the mid-1820s Turner worked on a set of twelve mezzotint plates, known as the Little Liber, or So-called Sequels to the Liber Studiorum. Relatively little is known about the circumstances surrounding the creation of the images, which all explore the dramatic effects of natural light.

At least half of subjects are concerned with direct observation of the sea. The watercolour studies on which the prints were based are unusually freely executed and unresolved. When painting for translation into black and white prints Turner usually provided a greater level of detail to guide the engravers.

Gallery label, April 2005

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Catalogue entry

See note to folio 1 of the sketchbook (D05491) for its various composition studies of an ancient seaport with figures arriving or departing. This version has some similarities to the coloured study on folio 49 verso (D05568), and Finberg thought that both and especially the present one showed similarities to Dido Building Carthage (National Gallery, London),1 but this was probably not foreseen by Turner. Here, the arch seen in folio 49 verso is replaced by a round building.

David Blayney Brown
August 2007

Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.94–6 no.131 (pl.133).

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