Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Wreck, Possibly Related to ‘Longships Lighthouse, Land’s End’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 338 × 491 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 41

Catalogue entry

This is one of eight ‘colour beginnings’ catalogued here as Land’s End subjects; the others are Tate D25129, D25165, D25172, D25274, D36323, D36324 and D36326 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 7, 43, 50, 152, CCCLXV 32, 33, 35). A further colour study has been proposed as a Land’s End view among other possibilities (Tate D25185; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 63). For Turner’s 1811 pencil sketches at Land’s End, see under D25129.
Eric Shanes has suggested that the present work, D25165, D25274 and D36326 (CCLXIII 43, 152, CCCLXV 35) relate in varying degrees to the watercolour Longships Lighthouse, Land’s End of about 1834 (J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles),1 engraved in 1836 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (no impressions held at Tate).2 The most closely related pencil study in the 1811 Cornwall and Devon sketchbook (albeit with many variations) is Tate D41303 (Turner Bequest CXXV a 27).
Assuming the Land’s End connection is correct, this is the least topographical of the four colour studies, linked only by its fundamental structure of differentiated upper quadrants and a continuous lower half, showing ‘how far from representationalism Turner could stray when establishing the foundations of highly representational images’.3 Gerald Wilkinson notes that ‘Finberg gave it the title, “Storm”, but this is either too specific or too vague’ and writes of the ‘drawing, if you can call such calligraphy drawing’.4 Michael Bockemühl has described the technique at some length: ‘a large black area of colour and another of a sketchy vermilion red ... extremely heavily washed’, with the outlines of ‘the hull of a ship, while the liquid marks are dispelled like smoke and fire’.5
In 2008 the German-based Japanese painter and photographer Hiroyuki Masuyama (born 1968) produced an LED lightbox based on the present work, as one of a series reinterpreting Turner’s landscapes, combining the original image with photographic landscape and architectural elements.6
See also the introductions to the present subsection of identified subjects and the overall England and Wales ‘colour beginnings’ grouping to which this work has been assigned.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.401 no.864, reproduced.
See Shanes 1997, pp.18, 81, 95, 98, 101, 104
Ibid., p.81.
Wilkinson 1975, p.139.
Bockemühl 1993, p.38.
Madesani 2008, reproduced in colour p.39, as ‘A Wreck, 1835–40’, 2008.
See Bower 1999, pp.56–7.

Matthew Imms
March 2013

Transcribed in Finberg 1909, II, p.814.

Read full Catalogue entry


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