Joseph Mallord William Turner

Ships and a Rowing Boat


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Chalk on paper
Support: 436 x 271 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXXXI 80

Catalogue entry

The subject is continued on folio 42 recto opposite (D04983; Turner Bequest LXXXI 81). This confused drawing is associated in Turner’s annotation with his painting The Shipwreck, exhibited at his own gallery in 1805 (Tate N00476),1 the year in which the inscriptions in this book were probably made. It is therefore likely that he was accurate in remembering the connection between the two, though it is difficult to discern much resemblance.
This study does, however, illustrate the way in which many of the ideas tried out here merged into one another, just as the watercolour of about 1805, Lake of Geneva, with Mont Blanc from the Lake (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven;2 see under folio 8 verso; D04917; Turner Bequest LXXXI 16), mutates into the 1807 painting Sun Rising through Vapour; Fishermen Cleaning and Selling Fish (National Gallery, London;3 see under folio 12 verso; D04925; Turner Bequest LXXXI 24).
That being said, the large boat to the right with its sail tilted diagonally, and the small boat beside it, are motifs that do appear in the finished Shipwreck. A more recognisable study for the picture is on folio 1 verso (D04903; Turner Bequest LXXXI 2), under which other studies in this book are noted.

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.43 no.54, pl.64 (colour).
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.342 no.370, reproduced.
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.53–4 no.69, pl.79 (colour).

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