Joseph Mallord William Turner

‘The Black Boat’; Vignette Study for the Boat in ‘The Andes Coast’ for Campbell’s ‘Poetical Works’


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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 214 × 280 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 209

Display caption

During the 1820s and 1830s Turner provided twenty small-scale vignette illustrations for an edition of Thomas Campbell’s Poetical Works 1837. This watercolour is a study for a finished design which accompanies part of the poem The Pleasures of Hope.

The poem uses the metaphor of a beleaguered ship at sea guided by a star as a symbol of hope:

‘Rocks, waves, and winds the shatter’d bark delay-
Thy heart is sad, thy home is far away.
But Hope can here her moonlight vigils keep,
And sing to charm the spirit of the deep.’

Gallery label, July 2008

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Catalogue entry

This watercolour sketch of a ship sailing beneath gathering storm clouds has been identified by Jan Piggott as a preparatory study for The Andes Coast,1 circa 1835 (National Gallery of Scotland), a vignette illustration designed by Turner for Edward Moxon’s 1837 edition of Thomas Campbell’s Poetical Works.2 The finished watercolour was engraved by Edward Goodall and published to accompany the poem ‘The Pleasures of Hope’.3
The dark palette and ominous tone of the sketch, commonly known as The Black Boat, bear little resemblance to the final version of The Andes Coast. The disparity between them may indicate that Turner designed the study in response to a different passage in Campbell’s poem. The vignette is usually associated with the following lines from ‘The Pleasures of Hope’:
Lo! To the wintry winds the pilot yields
His bark careering o’er unfathom’d fields;
Now on Atlantic waves he rides afar,
Where Andes, giant of the western star,
With meteor-standard to the winds unfurl’d.
Looks from his throne of clouds o’er half the world!
(Poetical Works of Thomas Campbell, 1837, pp.3–4)
However, the stormy, threatening sky of this early vision seems especially well suited to a darker and more menacing section of the poem as described in the following lines:
Now far he sweeps, where scarce a summer smiles,
On Behring’s rocks, or Greenland’s naked isles:
Cold on his midnight watch the breezes blow,
From wastes that slumber in eternal snow;
And waft, across the waves’ tumultuous roar,
The wolf’s long howl from Oonalaska’s shore.
Poor child of danger, nursling of the storm,
Sad are the woes that wreck thy manly form!
Rocks, waves, and winds, the shatter’d bark delay;
Thy heart is sad, thy home is far away.
But Hope can here her moonlight vigils keep,
And sing to charm the spirit of the deep:
Swift as yon streamer lights the starry pole,
Her visions warm the watchman’s pensive soul
(Poetical Works of Thomas Campbell, 1837, p.4)
There are seven other studies possibly related to The Andes Coast (see Tate D27524; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 7).
Piggott 1993, p.97.
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, no.1272; reproduced in colour in Mungo Campbell, A Complete Catalogue of Works by Turner in the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh 1993, p.55.
W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., vol.II, London 1913, no.614. There is one impression in Tate’s collection (T04766).

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

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