Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Storm off the Dutch Coast, after Jacob van Ruisdael

1802

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 128 × 114 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D04289
Turner Bequest LXXII 14 a

Catalogue entry

Turner’s copy continues across folio 15 of this sketchbook (D04390). Ruisdael’s (Jacob Isaacz. van Ruisdael 1628/9–82) picture is presently known as ‘Une Tempête sur le bord des Digues de la Hollande’. Having been in various French collections, it was acquired by Louis XVI in 1783. Finberg was the first to observe that this copy is not literal, omitting a house in the foreground and reducing the light on the surf. These changes can be explained by Turner’s strictures on the picture on folio 23 (D04299); these include the observations that ‘the introducing of the house on the embankment destroys all the dignity of the left’, and that ‘the chief light is upon the surge in the foreground, but too much is made to suffer, so that it is artificial – and shows the brown in a more glaring point of view and His inattention of the form which waves make upon a lee shore embanked’.
This transcription follows Bachrach’s earlier reading of the underlined word near the end as ‘His’ rather than Finberg’s ‘this’.1 In the context it carries an unmistakable note of pique, and Bachrach suggests that Turner’s critique of Ruisdael’s ‘inattention’ to the forms of waves on a lee-shore could have been provoked by adverse comparison of his own marine pictures to the Dutch masters. Turner’s Fishermen upon a Lee-Shore, in Squally Weather (Southampton Art Gallery)2 had been in the Royal Academy in 1802. Bachrach further shows that Turner rushed too hastily to judgement, Ruisdael’s handling of a lee shore (one with the wind blowing in from the sea) being in fact correct for a Dutch situation owing to the prevailing force of the winds and tides; moreover that the house on the dyke, which Turner thought an unsightly intrusion and left out of his copy, was a typical Dutch harbour-master’s house, invariably present at the mouth of a river.
Turner also copied and discussed Ruisdael’s Burst of Sunshine (‘Coup de Soleil’) in this sketchbook, folios 22 verso, 81 (D04298, D04380). Bachrach notes Turner’s adaptation of Ruisdael-like elements in his Calais Pier, with French Poissards Preparing for Sea; an English Packet Arriving (National Gallery, London),3 itself a depiction of a lee shore; this follows Ziff’s idea that Turner painted it ‘in private competition’ with Ruisdael’s Storm.4 Bachrach also suggests that the three-word heading of Turner’s notes on Ruisdael’s Louvre picture – ‘Sea Port Ruysdael’ – may have prompted his otherwise puzzling title for his own picture exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1827, Port Ruysdael (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut) – ‘an improved version of the Louvre composition’. Butlin and Joll, however, argue that this was more probably a collective tribute to various Ruisdaels in British collections5 while Ian Warrell notes another possible source in Ruisdael’s Rough Sea at a Jetty (Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas) which was on the London art market in 1826; this picture was shown alongside Turner’s at Tate Britain in 2009.6 Turner’s interest in the Dutch painter and copying of his work – at least through the medium of a print – is documented from the early 1790s in a sketchbook in the Art Museum, Princeton University.7

David Blayney Brown
October 2009

1
Bachrach 1980, pp.20–1. Bachrach later reverted to Finberg’s reading (Bachrach 1994, p.19).
2
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.15–-16 no.16 (pl.12).
3
Ibid., pp.37–8 no.48 (pl.58).
4
Ziff 1963, p.320, note 34.
5
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.146 no.237 (pl.242).
6
Turner and the Masters (69 reproduced in colour); Warrell in Solkin 2009, pp.183, 230 note 3.
7
Robin Hamlyn, ‘An Early Sketchbook by J.M.W. Turner’, Record of the Art Museum, Princeton University, vol.44, no.2, 1985, p.22 reproduced.

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