Joseph Mallord William Turner

Two Hulks, Probably on the River Medway


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 112 × 190 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCIX 45

Catalogue entry

As identified by Finberg, the drawings on this page describe the forms of two hulks, or at least two varying perspectives on the architecture of a hulk.1 Presumably Turner encountered the vessel, or vessels, on the River Medway, in light of the topographic focus of the sketchbook.
Both drawings have been composed with the page inverted according to the foliation of the sketchbook. At bottom left, Turner describes the flat appearance of a hulk’s stern. He records a grid of windows across the gallery and insinuates the bulging hull at right with a single evocative line. The handling is brief but evocative.
Further up the page a more expansive side view of a hulk dominates the space and even spills across the gutter slightly onto the facing page, folio 44 verso (D17440). A diagonal ladder, or set of steps, links the high deck with the harbour towards the left, indicating that Turner was able to observe the boat at leisure as it sat stationary and adjacent with the shore. Emulating a tendency repeated throughout the current sketchbook, the greatest volume of detail is elaborated on the stern at left and bow at right. The hull displays some architectural paraphernalia as well, including seven gun ports, Sweeping horizontal lines stretch across the length of the ship and conjure a sense of its overall shape and timber construction.

Maud Whatley
January 2016

Finberg 1909, I, p.608.

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