Joseph Mallord William Turner

Ships on the River, Possibly at Queenborough


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 112 × 190 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCIX 8

Catalogue entry

Turner uses this page to describe two expansive, panoramic studies. Finberg identifies the River as the Medway, which seems likely in light of the topographic focus of the sketchbook.1
However, the topmost sketch of a view across the water seems to display a view of Queenborough on the Isle of Sheppey, along the River Swale. Turner records a similar prospect elsewhere in this sketchbook, across folios 5 verso and 6 recto (D17374 and D17375) and later on folios 85 verso and 86 verso (D17497 and D17499). Holy Trinity Church seems to be marked out against the sky towards the right, observed from a southern viewpoint. At left, a tower topped with intersecting lines denotes a windmill, and is surrounded by lower buildings on both sides. The topography around this central point is largely flat, with a small hill at far left. The handling is light and swift, capturing broad shapes and the essential characteristics of the view.
Lower down the page, the second drawing is somewhat more elaborate, but also appears to feature a windmill, this time towards far left, on the horizon. In the foreground, the shallow, sloping banks of the river are described with a deft hand, and indicate Turner’s position as he stands at the water’s edge to achieve this viewpoint. To the right is open water, populated in the mid-distance by a number of vessels, which Finberg notes in his title for this sheet.2 The multitudes of masts puncture the horizon and convey the bustling industry of this portion of the river.

Maud Whatley
January 2016

Finberg 1909, I, p.607.

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