Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Steamer and a Sailing Ship off the Coast in a Storm

c.1820–40

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 256 x 280 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D35991
Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 147

Display caption

Steamships are a recurring feature of Turner’s imagery. They appear as details in many of his paintings of coastal scenery and rivers. Here, as in the large painting Snow Storm shown on the wall to your left, the steamship is at the centre of the composition. It is overwhelmed by the grandeur of the surrounding sea, and almost absorbed by the blinding light Turner conjures.  The ship might be interpreted as a symbol of the futility of man’s efforts in the face of such forces.

Gallery label, September 2004

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