Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study of Three Sailing Ships


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 296 × 411 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XLI 25

Catalogue entry

This is one of a number of drawings in this sketchbook recording sailing vessels at anchor or being towed on a river: others are on D01657–D01662, D01672, D01673; Turner Bequest XLI 26, 26a, 27, 28, 28a, 29, 39, 40). The river has steep wooded banks, and the evidence of the contemporary Swans sketchbook – Tate D01697–D01698 (Turner Bequest XLII 22–23) which is inscribed ‘Avon River’, D01699–D01700 (Turner Bequest XLII 24–25) and D01703–D01704 (Turner Bequest XLII 28–29), a view of Bristol – suggests that Turner saw these ships in harbour at Bristol and in the Avon Gorge, down which they were being towed to the Bristol Channel.
Under D01659 (Turner Bequest XLI 27), Finberg cites Tate D01698 (Turner Bequest XLII 23) in the Swans book, but deduced that the shipping was on the Usk, near Crickhowell, having misread the note on that page as ‘Crick Howell’, and there is a possibility that some of the scenes are on the Wye; see D01661 (Turner Bequest XLI 28a). Finberg referred to ‘men-of-war’,1 but although there seems to be a warship, probably in Bristol harbour, in the Swans book (D01699; Turner Bequest XLII 24), most of the ships seem too small to be naval craft.
Finberg 1909, I, p.98.
Technical notes:
Finberg recorded that a strip (approximately 40 mm wide) has been cut off the sheet along the edge nearest the binding, and described the medium as ‘sepia’,1 but in fact grey and pinkish-brown washes seem to have been used, as in the better preserved drawing on the following sheet (D01657; Turner Bequest XLI 26). In both cases, fading may have taken place, though the latter does not employ a full gamut of colour. D01658 (Turner Bequest XLI 26a) exhibits considerable fading. It formed part of the Third Loan Collection and was withdrawn on account of deterioration following exposure to light.
There is a tear approximately 50 mm long from the top edge near the left corner; the bottom right corner has been torn away and repaired.
Blank; not stamped.

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

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