Joseph Mallord William Turner

Boats at Sea


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 38 × 74 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXLIV 431

Catalogue entry

This is one of ten drawings on nine printed visiting cards or blanks of the same small dimensions, equating to about 1 ½ x 3 inches (Tate D34929–D34939; Turner Bequest CCCXLIV 431–439), all apart from the present one being rapid permutations of the classical architectural and seaport motifs of Claude Lorrain, a consistent influence on Turner (see the Introduction to this subsection). Ian Warrell has observed that ‘as a group, they vividly communicate his compulsive need to sketch, at the same time illustrating his captivation with the kind of classical imagery he had learnt from Claude.’1
As this cluster of visiting cards, grouped together by Finberg, is unique within the Turner Bequest, the present drawing, which gives the rather different impression of having been drawn from direct observation of boats at sea, has been kept with the rest for the purposes of the present catalogue.
Finberg placed the cards somewhat arbitrarily in a large ‘Miscellaneous: black and white’ category dated to about 1830–41;2 it is difficult to date them more precisely, or to know whether the classical variations were done quickly or over an extended period. Finberg’s range has been extended a little here, in line with Ian Warrell’s suggestion,3 which covers the period following Turner’s second Italian tour of 1828–9 through to the early 1840s, after which his productivity in general declined rapidly.
Compare Tate D34851–D34856 (Turner Bequest CCCXLIV 363–368), informal pencil studies of Claudian landscapes on a sheet folded into four, with several to each quarter.
See Ian Warrell in Warrell, Blandine Chavanne and Michael Kitson, Turner et le Lorrain, exhibition catalogue, Musée des beaux-arts, Nancy 2002, p.199.
Finberg 1909, II, p.1143.
See Warrell 2002, p.199.
Technical notes:
There is one particularly prominent finger mark, and the surface is generally rubbed.
Blank; inscribed in pencil ‘431’ towards bottom right; stamped in black ‘CCCXLIV 431’ bottom right.

Matthew Imms
August 2016

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