Joseph Mallord William Turner

Fishing Boats Bringing a Disabled Ship into Port Ruysdael

exhibited 1844

Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 914 × 1232 mm
frame: 1187 × 1507 × 138 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Display caption

By the time Turner painted this work, in the 1840s, he often finished his exhibited pictures with few details. The last marks he added to this painting seem to have been the outlines added to the blocks of white that make up the distant sails. Turner makes a reference to the Dutch 17th-century artist Jacob van Ruisdael in the name he gives his imaginary port. Turner first encountered the work of the artist during his visit to the Louvre in Paris in 1802.

Gallery label, July 2020

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Catalogue entry

408. [N00536] Fishing Boats bringing a Disabled Ship into Port Ruysdael Exh. 1844


Canvas, 36 × 48 1/2 (91·5 × 123)

Coll. Turner Bequest 1856 (12, ‘Port Ruysdael’ 4'0" × 3'0"); transferred to the Tate Gallery 1948.

Exh. R.A. 1844 (21); Paris 1965 (37, repr.); Marine Paintings Arts Council tour, October 1965–April 1966 (26, repr.).

Lit. Ruskin 1843 (1903–12, iii, pp. 568–9); Thornbury 1862, i, p. 348; 1877, p. 466; Hamerton 1879, p. 299; Bell 1901, p. 149 no. 243; Armstrong 1902, p. 230; Davies 1946, pp. 152, 185; Finberg 1961, pp. 397–8, 400–01, 508 no. 557; Rothenstein and Butlin 1964, p. 68; Wilton 1979, p. 205; Gage 1980, p. 196; Bachrach 1981, pp. 19–20, 25, pl. 2; Joll 1981, pp. 148–51, pl. 39.

In a rather surprising passage in a letter to his dealer Griffith of 1 February 1844 Turner asks, ‘and Pray tell me if the new Port Ruysdael shall be with fish only’, suggesting that the picture was then under way and was being painted on commission; it was never sold, however. For Turner's fictitious ‘Port Ruysdael’ see his 1827 exhibit of this title, No. 237.

This picture received little attention from the press compared to the more controversial of the year's exhibits. For a reference in the Spectator for 11 May 1844 see No. 407.

Ruskin described this as ‘among the most perfect sea pictures he [Turner] has produced, and especially remarkable as being painted without one marked opposition either of colour or of shade, all quiet and simple even to an extreme, so that the picture was exceedingly unattractive at first sight.’

Published in:
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984


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