Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Sea, ?with the Moon behind Clouds


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 242 × 296 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCVII D

Display caption

Storms often feature as a dramatic and sublime component of Turner’s paintings. In these three watercolours, gathering storm clouds above a menacing sea provide the artist with the opportunity to experiment with contrasting areas of dark and light.

Turner has combined fluid washes with energetic brushstrokes to create a sense of perpetual movement and change in the weather. Each composition preserves a unity between the sky and the water, the energy or stillness of the waves mirroring or balancing the dynamic masses of the clouds.

Gallery label, July 2008

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Catalogue entry

The effectively uniform grey foreground presumably indicates the sea, as traditionally supposed,1 while the brightness beyond the ragged upper edge of the dense, silhouetted cloud bank may indicate the moon. Among the canonical ‘Little Liber’ watercolours, compare the effect in Bridge and Monument (Tate D17193; Turner Bequest CXCVII C) in particular.
See also Tate D17196 (Turner Bequest CXCVII F) in the present subsection.
See Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.641, and Finberg 1909, I, p.602.
Blank; some irregular creasing. Inscribed in pencil ‘CXCVII – D’ bottom centre; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CXCVII – D’ bottom left.

Matthew Imms
September 2016

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