Joseph Mallord William Turner

Groups of Vessels, with a Ship of the Line


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 112 × 190 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCIX 8 a

Catalogue entry

The drawing rendered horizontally on this page describes two ships, as identified by Finberg.1 In the foreground, at right, Turner describes in some detail a ship of the line. He deftly records the complex rigging and inscribes the sketch with an elaborative note: ‘15 Lower Deck Port [?Loops]’. Further back, beyond the larger vessel, a second, briefly rendered example is positioned at left. This vessel also boasts a trio of masts, but is described in less detail and with a lighter hand.
Made with the sketchbook turned vertically, Turner also describes two further shipping scenes on this page. Across the topmost edge of the vertical sheet, the views are similar and almost merge into a single panoramic prospect, but for swift linear markings which separate them from one another and from the rest of the page. The drawing on the left is hemmed in by both a horizontal line below and a vertical boundary to the right. Inside, the view is of a group of vessels. These range from small fishing boats at far left, to larger, more heavily treated ships towards the right. The handling here is somewhat vague, conveying the impression of a cluttered port rather than its individual elements.
The second sketch made with the page turned vertically is directly adjacent with the first, positioned at top right. As before, Turner scores a single line beneath the drawing to differentiate its forms from either of the other compositions on the sheet. The shapes here are slightly more distinctive, and a small hut or shed, with peaked roof and window, is evident at far right. The broad, darkly shaded shape at the centre of this sketch seems to parallel a similar form in the neighbouring drawing, and a horizontal row of three short, sharp markings to the right seems also to be echoed in each composition. The two views may describe the same scene, from slightly deviating angles.

Maud Whatley
January 2016

Finberg 1909, I, p.607.

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