Joseph Mallord William Turner

Moonlight over the Sea, with Distant Cliffs


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache and watercolour on paper
Support: 134 × 209 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XXXIII N

Display caption

This drawing belongs to a small group of studies on buff paper which probably relate to 'Fishermen at Sea'. Technically, Turner's early moonlights and interiors on paper demonstrate that he was one of a few artists who had begun to experiment in making watercolours emulate the effects of oil painting, then thought to be the only true medium for the serious painter. In a conscious move away from the conventions of eighteenth century tinted drawing practice, Turner and others began to make works on paper which, through the use of coloured papers, bodycolour, scratching out and other techniques, often echoed the oil painter's method of working from dark colours to light ones.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

The cliffs shown here may be those, perhaps near Brighton, which feature in the drawing formerly known as ‘Shakespeare Cliff’ (Tate D00886; Turner Bequest XXXIII O), but the sheet seems to belong with the other Margate views in this series and is probably a view along the north Kent coast towards Reculver; see the view in the contemporary Wilson sketchbook (Tate D01231; Turner Bequest XXXVII 114).
Blank; inscribed in a later hand ‘112’.

Andrew Wilton
January 2013

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