Joseph Mallord William Turner

Composition Study for ‘Dutch Boats in a Gale: Fishermen Endeavouring to Put their Fish on Board (“The Bridgewater Seapiece”)’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Chalk on paper
Support: 436 × 271 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXXXI 106

Catalogue entry

Inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation, the subject is continued on folio 55 recto opposite (D05009; Turner Bequest LXXXI 107). It is apparently the last of a series, working backwards through the book as now foliated, of studies for the large painting Dutch Boats in a Gale: Fishermen Endeavouring to Put their Fish on Board (‘The Bridgewater Seapiece’), exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1801 (private collection, on loan to the National Gallery, London),1 having been commissioned by the Duke of Bridgewater as a pendant to A Rising Gale (Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio) by Willem van de Velde the Younger (1633–1707).
Others studies in the sequence are on folios 55 verso–56 recto, 57 verso–58 recto, 60 verso–61 recto, 62 verso–63 recto, 64 verso–65 recto and 66 recto (D05010–D05011, D05014–D05015, D05020–D05021, D05024–D05025, D05028–D05029, D05031; Turner Bequest LXXXI 108–109, 112–113, 118–119, 122–123, 126–127, 129); see also folios 53 verso–54 recto (D05006–D05007; Turner Bequest LXXXI 104–105).
If Turner’s inscription is correct, it is interesting that his final thought on paper should have been of boats close to the picture plane, their wind–filled sails dominating the design as a repoussoir. He altered this in the picture itself, placing the boats more centrally, while the distant man–o’–war is farther off and reduced in relative importance; compare D05010–D05011.

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.12–13 no.14, pl.11 (colour).

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