Technique and condition
This study was executed on white wove paper that Turner must have acquired some time earlier, since it has a Whatman watermark and ‘1814’ countermark. There is very light and sketchy graphite pencil drawing beneath the paint layer, to establish broad divisions between sea, land and sky, but Turner did not follow these lines at all closely after he had soaked the paper and applied broadly horizontal washes of colour. The dark grey clouds in particular were made on very wet paper, and the paint was stirred around to create dramatic effects already begun by the spontaneous movement of wet watercolour washes. Tilting or bending the paper would have encouraged the process: this was eminently possible since there is no evidence to suggest that it was taped or restrained during the painting process. The washes have been worked with fingers and thumb, particularly where the nearer shore meets the water, to create further chance effects that could be built upon. The light areas below the dark cloud were washed out.
Visual and microscopical examination suggests that the red pigment used was vermilion, applied pure for the sky, mixed with yellow for the immediate foreground, and with indigo added to the mixture for the green water. Ultraviolet examination would have indicated the presence of a red madder lake which might have been thought of as a more likely colour to select for such a sky, and it suggests that the yellow streak in the shoreline is painted with a deep shade of chrome yellow. This material had just become available in ever deeper tones of yellow, and orange and scarlet shades would be sold by the end of Turner’s life. He was a very early adopter of the colour, which would come to be his favourite yellow pigment in both oil and watercolour, the pale clarity of its lighter shades ideally suited to application over white paint or white paper respectively. Here the deep shade is a very early use, though it loses impact when placed next to the deep blue-grey clouds and greenish grey vegetation of the shoreline. The grey clouds were mixed from indigo and vermilion. The three pigments in combination made the dark greens of the distant trees on the shoreline.