Joseph Mallord William Turner

Two Figures on a Beach with a Boat


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Oil on board
Support: 245 × 347 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest M 1972 U747

Display caption

This is from a series of oil sketches that Turner made on millboard. The series was painted late in his career. Although small boards like this one were often used by artists working directly from nature, Turner made most of his oil sketches in his studio. He worked either from pencil sketches or from memory. These works reveal how Turner used oil paint to sketch out details of land, sea and sky. In the examples shown here he also included figures within the landscape.

Gallery label, September 2018

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Catalogue entry

[from] Nos. 487–500: Sketches of Coast and other Scenes, c. 1840–5?

THESE fourteen sketches on millboard were discovered in the early 1960s in a parcel among the works from the Turner Bequest transferred from the Tate Gallery to the British Museum in 1931; they had not been numbered or included in Finberg's 1909 Inventory. They fall into three groups according to size, approx. 10 1/2 × 12 in., 9 3/4 × 13 1/2 in. and 12 × 19 in., but form a homogeneous group technically and stylistically. Two further sketches from the same parcel are distinct in style, technique and the type of millboard used (see Nos. 485 [D36676] and 486 [D36680]). Ship in a Storm (No. 489 [D36682]) is close in composition to Snow Storm—Steam-Boat off a Harbour Mouth, exhibited in 1842 (see No. 398 [N00530]), while others from the group such as Sunset seen from a Beach with Breakwater (No. 497 [D36679]) are the equivalent in oils of very late watercolours such as those in the ‘Ambleteuse and Wimereux’ sketchbook of 1845 (CCCLVII). However, compositional resemblances help very little in dating Turner's late works and comparison between works in different media is equally fruitless.

Thirteen unspecified sketches from Nos 485–500 were first exhibited at the British Museum in 1962 (see under ‘Lit.’ below).

Lit. Sketch Books and Albums of Drawings, German Gothic and Renaissance Prints: Oil Sketches by J.M.W. Turner. Exhibition held in the Department of Prints and Drawings 1962; ‘British Museum: Rediscovered Oil Sketches by J.M.W. Turner’, Illustrated London News 10 March 1962, p. 371.

499. [D36681] Two Figures on a Beach with a Boat c. 1840–5?


Millboard, irregular, 9 1/2 × 13 3/4 (24·5 × 34·5)

Coll. Turner Bequest 1856.

Exh. Tokyo, Osaka and Hong Kong 1963–4 (8, repr. in colour); R.A. 1974–5 (499).

Published in:
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984


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