Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sailing Boat in a Rough Sea


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest M 1972 U748

Display caption

This piece of millboard was used by Turner, who began a sketch on the other side. We are showing it here as an example of the sort of board that William Blake used for printing.

Millboard was made from waste paper, old tarred rope and/or pulp leftover from paper-making. The paper fibres were pressed together without added glue, and ‘milled’ smooth. Animal glue size could be applied later to make it less absorbent. It was easily cut to size.

The material would have been very suitable for Blake’s colour printing experiments. It was sold by artists’ colourmen, and was not expensive.

Several contemporary artists painted on millboard, as JMW Turner did here. This example is thin, and now too fragile to allow us to display of both sides at once. Blake would have used thicker board for printing.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

[from] Nos. 487–500: Sketches of Coast and other Scenes, c. 1840–5?

THESE fourteen sketches on millboard were discovered in the early 1960s in a parcel among the works from the Turner Bequest transferred from the Tate Gallery to the British Museum in 1931; they had not been numbered or included in Finberg's 1909 Inventory. They fall into three groups according to size, approx. 10 1/2 × 12 in., 9 3/4 × 13 1/2 in. and 12 × 19 in., but form a homogeneous group technically and stylistically. Two further sketches from the same parcel are distinct in style, technique and the type of millboard used (see Nos. 485 [D36676] and 486 [D36680]). Ship in a Storm (No. 489 [D36682]) is close in composition to Snow Storm—Steam-Boat off a Harbour Mouth, exhibited in 1842 (see No. 398 [N00530]), while others from the group such as Sunset seen from a Beach with Breakwater (No. 497 [D36679]) are the equivalent in oils of very late watercolours such as those in the ‘Ambleteuse and Wimereux’ sketchbook of 1845 (CCCLVII). However, compositional resemblances help very little in dating Turner's late works and comparison between works in different media is equally fruitless.

Thirteen unspecified sketches from Nos 485–500 were first exhibited at the British Museum in 1962 (see under ‘Lit.’ below).

Lit. Sketch Books and Albums of Drawings, German Gothic and Renaissance Prints: Oil Sketches by J.M.W. Turner. Exhibition held in the Department of Prints and Drawings 1962; ‘British Museum: Rediscovered Oil Sketches by J.M.W. Turner’, Illustrated London News 10 March 1962, p. 371.

498. [D36677] Sailing Boat in a Rough Sea c. 1840–5?


Millboard, irregular, 10 3/16 × 11 15/16 (26·5 × 30·5)

Coll. Turner Bequest 1856.

Published in:
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984


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