Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study of the Inside of a Small Boat: Transom, Thwart and Ribs


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Support: 126 × 108 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XXX 96

Technique and condition

This watercolour is in the small-scale Studies near Brighton sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest XXX) made from several sheets each of white wove Whatman paper and strong blue laid wrapping paper. The paper was made blue by the inclusion of coloured fibres, mainly from blue rags. This sketchbook was probably bound by William Dickie at 120 Strand, London, who bound many of Turner’s sketchbooks, often using paper supplied by Turner himself. A similar blue paper is found in the Wilson sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest XXXVII). In the Studies near Brighton sketchbook Turner also prepared some of the blue pages with a red wash, while in the Wilson sketchbook every page was so treated, and Turner may have done this himself before the book was bound.1 The Wilson sketchbook would have had deep red-brown pages originally, all which have lost colour. Its red wash was applied with glue size, probably brushed on hot for ease of application. This sizing and the somewhat unusual presence of wool fibres in the paper in addition to the more common linen ones gave a very strong paper which could survive vigorous brushwork and repeated soaking during the painting process.2
Here Turner chose a blue page, which has subsequently been exposed to so much light that the blue fibres in the paper have faded, while the predominating white fibres have yellowed.
The spars of the boat were outlined lightly with a fine graphite pencil before washes of watercolour made from brown ochres, and opaque gouache made from lead white, were applied to form the spars. The spars remain bluish and slightly flecked in appearance because the gouache has protected the blue paper beneath. The larger blocks of colour for the stern were added next, along with more localised grey washes for the shadows of the spars on the right. These transparent washes were less protective. Their impact would have been greater when their warm tones could have been viewed against the cool pale blue paper. All the washes were applied to dry paper and have dried with visible edges – necessarily, when Turner was working with a sketchbook instead of loose sheets of paper.

Helen Evans
October 2008

Revised by Joyce Townsend
February 2011

Peter Bower, ‘Turner’s Papers: A Catalogue of the Papers Used by J.M.W. Turner in the Turner Bequest, Clore Gallery, Tate Gallery. Part 1: 1787–1802: TB I–TB LXX’, 1994, Tate catalogue files, unpaginated.

Catalogue entry

This study was made with the page turned vertically. Susan Sloman cites Ian Warrell as pointing out that Turner used it for the detail of a decayed boat in the foreground of his contemporary view of Brighthelmstone (later Brighton; private collection).1 Compare folio 95 verso (D00840; Turner Bequest XXX 95), which shows the bow of the same boat.
Finberg recorded this subject as the recto; see the Technical notes to the sketchbook’s Introduction.
Sloman 2003, p.[26] no.31, reproduced in colour, p.[27] and on front cover, as ‘A View of Brighton from the West’; not in Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979.
Technical notes:
Except at the edges, the page is faded from exposure when it was exhibited.

Andrew Wilton
May 2011

Read full Catalogue entry


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