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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