Joseph Mallord William Turner

Two Boats at Sea near Wimereux


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 238 × 336 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCLVII 4

Display caption

Turner had to forego his planned trip to Swtizerland in 1845. This was due to extra responsibilities at the Royal Academy, resulting from the illness of the President. In May he compensated by going first to Margate, and then crossing the Channel to Boulogne. He wrote to Ruskin's father 'really I have been so unwell that I was obliged to go away from Town to revival by a little change of fresh air.' Turner travelled a short distance along the coast north of Boulogne, making a series of watercolour studies at Ambleteuse and Wimereux. This example shows the view across the bay at Wimereux, beautifully evoking the flickering light of a stormy spring day. Turner records the date, and also the location in a phonetic abbreviation.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

In this sketch, a burst of yellow sunshine out at sea breaks through leaden clouds to frame two small fishing boats. This compositional device also features in the preceding and following sketches as originally constituted in the sketchbook (D35388, D35390; CCCLVII 3, 5). Towards the bottom right, the inscription ‘Vim’, Turner’s phonetic abbreviation of Wimereux, locates the scene three miles north up the coast from Boulogne near the former naval garrison of that name. Small-scale fishing had become the main industry of this now ‘sorry hamlet’ as its military-strategic importance declined during the post-Napoleonic peace with Great Britain.1 With unusual exactness Turner’s inscription dated this sketch to May 1845.
J. Brunet, New Guide to Boulogne-sur-Mer, 3rd ed., Boulogne 1840, p.131.
Blank, except for two small patches of grey-blue watercolour.

John Chu
December 2013

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