Joseph Mallord William Turner

Rain Clouds at Sea ?with a Steam Ship


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 237 × 336 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCLVII 14

Catalogue entry

The exact subject of this watercolour sketch, featuring blue, grey, brown, and yellow washes, is difficult to discern although breaking rainclouds and a turbulent sea are clearly involved. David Blayney Brown draws a comparison between this and the major oil painting Seascape: Folkestone of about 1845 (private collection)1 and, like Ian Warrell, makes a convincing case that the brown form at the centre of the page is a steamship caught in a rainstorm.2 The grey zigzag directed towards the top right corner may represent the exhaust expelled from the vessel’s chimney. Certainly such a subject would be consistent with the character of the Boulogne coastline during the 1840s as the port became the pre-eminent destination for cross-Channel steam packets.3
As detailed in the Introduction to this sketchbook, this leaf is a possible candidate for one of its ‘drawn on’ inside covers as described by Finberg when the volume had yet to be broken up.4
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.288–9 no.472, pl.473.
Brown 1987, p.12; Warrell 2007, p.195.
Georges Oustric, Le Port de Boulogne-sur-Mer au XIXe siècle, La Sentinelle 1995, pp.80–5.
Finberg 1909, vol.II, p.1167.
Technical notes:
There is a margin of mottled discolouration to the left of the page.
A margin of mottled brown discolouration runs down the extreme right of the page.

John Chu
December 2013

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