Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sailors Getting Pigs on Board a Boat in a Choppy Sea


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 222 × 273 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XXIII T 2

Technique and condition

This painting on cream wove drawing paper has a very detailed drawing in graphite pencil which depicts the entire composition with the exception of the masts, which have been painted in using a fine brush. Coloured washes were applied more freely, and the details of faces and costumes were created used colour alone. Whites in the painting have been created by leaving blank areas and allowing the paper to show through. The sailors’ costumes were all painted over areas of reserved white, which confers luminosity to these areas. The cloudy sky, in contrast, has overlapping washes to form the sky and grey and purplish clouds.
Pigments used include two red lakes, vermilion, natural ultramarine, and probably indigo and gamboge (deep yellow) or a yellow lake. The first three were used in the sky in combination with the indigo to create the clouds and the choppy water. Such mixed greys, also known as optical blacks, are very common in Turner’s skies and to a reasonable extent also in his seas: he rather rarely depicted grey clouds with a pale wash of black pigment when he was already using other colours in the same work.

Helen Evans
October 2008

Revised by Joyce Townsend
February 2011

Catalogue entry


You might like

In the shop