Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study for ‘The Loss of an East Indiaman’


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite, watercolour and chalk on paper
Support: 311 × 460 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCVI N

Technique and condition

This colour beginning on white wove paper was worked very rapidly and without wetting the paper first, which makes it possible to built up intense colours quickly. It includes some colour trials on the right edge: unusually they are paler than the intensity in the main image. Some washes of colour in this work are now almost invisible, yet can still be seen by their surviving fluorescence when the sheet is viewed in ultraviolet light. For example: a wash of vermilion mixed with red lake, most likely madder by its fluorescence, is present in the sky, which would have looked more purplish in tone, and therefore more threatening. Blue indigo was applied quite heavily in places. At this time, Turner used Prussian blue regularly in order to achieve an intense and bright blue, and it had begun to supersede the traditional indigo in his palette, but in this case indigo gave the desired dramatic effect without the need to add black to a brighter blue.

Helen Evans
October 2008

Revised by Joyce Townsend
March 2011

Catalogue entry


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