Joseph Mallord William Turner

Shipping on the River Medway


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 190 × 112 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCIX 3

Catalogue entry

Made with the sketchbook turned vertically, at the top of this page Turner renders a delicate and detailed panoramic view of shipping on the River Medway, as identified by Finberg.1 In the centre foreground a boat and its stretched, angular sail are fully realised. Further back a cluttered tangle of hulls and masts intersect on the horizon with architectural structures stationed on the riverbank. At far right a small sliver of land is indicated. The impression is of a slice of bustling waterway, populated with both occupied and docked vessels, all rendered neatly and precisely.
The rest of the sheet, beneath the miniature panorama, is taken up with the continuation of a drawing which originates on folio 2 verso (D17368). This sketch has been made with the book oriented horizontally, as per its regular foliation. The current portion of the composition is given over mainly to the topographical character of the river bank, which gently swoops upwards from water level, peaking and toughing as it extends into the distance around the centre of the page. Vertical dashes of Turner’s pencil seem to indicate reeds or some such iteration of plant life. At far left, emerging from the gutter, the simplified hull of a sailing vessel is evident.

Maud Whatley
January 2016

Finberg 1909, I, p.607.

Read full Catalogue entry


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