Joseph Mallord William Turner

Two Studies of Skies above Landscapes or the Sea, by Day and at Sunset or Dawn


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 357 × 348 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 131

Display caption

Turner often used the technique of brushing a second colour onto wet paper before the first wash has dried, known as ‘wet in wet’, in his sea studies. In particular he employs it to great effect when painting a changing sky where one colour diffuses into another.

He also drives the wet watercolour around the paper with his brush or his fingers so that the direction of the paint echoes the restless energy of the waves and the transient patterns of the sky.

Gallery label, April 2005

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Catalogue entry

Eric Shanes has tentatively suggested that the two studies on this almost square sheet are of ‘skies above the sea’.1 The strongly coloured upper composition shows the low sun rising or setting behind red clouds, with its light possibly reflected on a wet beach in the foreground. Below is a less dramatic scene of light cloud over what is probably a choppy sea.
Ian Warrell has noted the latter, the present work and the seascape studies on Tate D25237 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 115) as examples of Turner’s using a single sheet for variant studies;2 see also Tate D25253 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 131) in the present subsection.
Tate D25241 and D25244 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 119, 122) in this subsection are other examples of Turner’s using a single sheet for multiple sky studies.
Shanes 1997, p.102.
See Warrell 1991, p.41.
Blank; inscribed by John Ruskin in pencil ‘AB 93 P | O’ top left, upside down; inscribed in pencil ‘CCLXIII 131’ bottom right; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CCLXIII – 131’ towards bottom left.

Matthew Imms
March 2016

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