Joseph Mallord William Turner

Moonlight over the ?Normandy Coast


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 232 x 332 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCLX 15

Display caption

In 1845 Turner made two last journeys to France. On the first short visit in May he returned to Boulogne, from where he explored the coast to the north: watercolours from that tour hang nearby in this room. In early September, his final trip to the Continent focused on Dieppe, Eu and Le Treport, during which he was continually on the look out for 'storms and shipwrecks'. This sketchbook was used on the later visit and contains many views of the castle and harbour at Dieppe. The study on this page represents a nocturnal effect, in which the moon is indistinctly seen through clouds above the sea.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

To create this nocturnal coastal view, Turner has deployed a gamut of watercolour techniques. The moonlit sea is indicated by a large area of ‘reserved’ blank paper while its choppy movements are depicted by a broken, snaking line in liquid blue-grey and by the rhythmic flicking of a thicker brush in paler grey. Relatively detailed ochre and dark blue brush-work brings forth the nuances of a cloudy night sky from grey washes. The whiteness of the moon, towards the top left of the page, is achieved with a small ‘reserved’, or perhaps ‘stopped out’, patch of blank paper, and given extra lustre by the ‘dropping-in’ of a dark spot of indigo immediately beneath.
For reasons set out in the Technical notes in the sketchbook Introduction, this work appears inverted in relation to the volume as foliated.
Blank; except for light patches of grey watercolour transferred from folio 15 recto opposite (D35474; Turner Bequest CCCLX 16).

John Chu
February 2014

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