Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Full Moon over Water

c.1823–6

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 251 x 381 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D40138

Catalogue entry

This elemental, luminous image centred on a reserved full moon over what is presumably the sea is comparable with Shields Lighthouse (Tate D25431; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 308), one of the canonical ‘Little Liber’ watercolours. See also Tate D25305 and D25328 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 183, 206) in the present subsection.
The whole image appears effectively to have been worked in a single blue-grey, much of which has been lifted out in ‘an example of blotting out carried to virtuoso extremes’, as Gerald Wilkinson has put it.1 There is a consistently rippled effect across the sky, perhaps in emulation of the soft middle tones achievable in mezzotint engraving.

The recto is D25338 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 216), a moonlit seascape at dusk.
1
Wilkinson 1975, p.155.
Technical notes:
Except at the top centre, brown stains of what may be glue1 affects large areas of the image at the left, right and bottom.

Matthew Imms
September 2016

1
See ibid.

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