Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Full Moon over a Sailing Boat at Sea


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 348 × 251 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 183

Catalogue entry

Andrew Wilton has likened this elementary but atmospheric scene of sails lit by a full moon to the almost equally scrappy watercolour Shields Lighthouse (Tate D25431; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 308), one of the canonical ‘Little Liber’ watercolours, as well as to the related study Tate D25314 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 192).1 The glowing white gouache of the prominent moon here has been modified by blue pigment applied with a fingertip or palm to suggest a partial veil of cloud (compare the treatment of the sun in Tate D25429; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 306).
See also the watercolour Moonlight on the Medway of about 1824 (Tate D25451; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 328), a composition mezzotinted but not published in the last stages of the Liber Studiorum, showing Turner’s interest shifting from linear to tonal effects as the two projects overlapped. Compare also Tate D25328 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 206) and D40138 in the present subsection.
See Wilton 1983, p.232.
Technical notes:
The edges of the sheet are unusually irregular. There is some adventitious brown staining to the right-hand half.
Blank; isolated, adventitious splashes of blue-green and ochre watercolour.

Matthew Imms
September 2016

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