Joseph Mallord William Turner

Composition Study for ‘Ships Bearing up for Anchorage (“The Egremont 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 64

Catalogue entry

The subject is continued on folio 34 recto opposite (D04967; Turner Bequest LXXXI 65). Ships Bearing up for Anchorage (‘The Egremont Seapiece’) was shown at the Royal Academy in 1802, where it was very probably bought directly from the artist by the 3rd Earl of Egremont; it has been at Petworth House in West Sussex ever since (Tate T03868, displayed at Petworth).1 It represents the culmination of Turner’s early attempts to use the format of the marine calm as a vehicle for subtle compositional pattern–making, a process that can be followed in drawings in the Studies for Pictures sketchbook (D04140–D04142; Turner Bequest LXIX 123, 124, 125) and elsewhere. Finberg thought that the drawing on Tate D04104 (Turner Bequest LXIX 90) in that book might be directly related to the Egremont picture.2
This study is a very broad, atmospheric sketch of the left half of the composition, but far from final in most of its details. It indicates the extent to which Turner envisaged the cloudy sky as an integral part of the subject. Other studies for the picture in this book are on folios 34 verso–35 recto, 37 verso–38 recto, 45 verso–46 recto, 57 verso–58 recto, and 58 verso–59 recto (D04968–D04969, D04974–D04975, D04990–D04991, D05014–D05015, D05016–D05017; Turner Bequest LXXXI 66–67, 72–73, 88–89, 112–113, 114–115).
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.17 no.18, pl.14 (colour).
See Finberg 1909, I, p.172.
Technical notes:
The page is oil–stained in places.

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

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