Joseph Mallord William Turner

Red Sky and Crescent Moon


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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour and gouache on paper
Support: 125 × 247 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLVIII 54

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Turner gave this sketchbook the simple title, 'Skies'. The book contains sixty-five watercolour studies of clouds, sunsets and moonlight, which constitutes his most sustained attempt to set down his impressions of the perpetual flux of the sky. The contents of the book date from 1818, the year before Turner made his first trip to Italy, so we can assume that these are records of the skies above England. The vibrant, but subdued colours used for this study of the early evening sky may reflect the unusual atmospheric conditions which followed the explosion of Mount Tabora in 1815. In the ensuing years, huge amounts of volcanic dust hung in the air, causing great variations in the weather, and producing dramatic sunsets.

Gallery label, August 2004

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