Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 90 × 112 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXVI 8 a

Catalogue entry

Four small sailing boats are shown across two pages of the sketchbook (continued on folio 9; D13465), tightly grouped and facing the same direction as if they were racing or taking part in a regatta. However, the boats are shown in different wind conditions so cannot depict a single moment in time. It is likely, therefore, that the sketches are of just one or two boats depicted several times in order to capture their changing appearance as they move through the waves. The first boat on the left is running before the wind, while the other sketches show the sail close-hauled into the wind, especially the boat at the far right on folio 9, which shows its helmsman leaning back (or hiking) to steady the boat and stop it leaning (heeling) with the wind. The boat on the left also includes a figure or two.
Although Turner did not travel to Scotland to record maritime subjects he did include several vessels in his Provincial Antiquities illustrations, although none of them are sailing. In Dunbar, circa 1823 (watercolour, private collection),1 he shows sailors clinging on to wreckage, and in Bass Rock, circa 1824 (watercolour, Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight),2 he includes a rescue or wrecking party braving the storm.
These sketches were likely to have been made in the Firth of Forth, or the River Tyne, both of which Turner drew elsewhere in this sketchbook (see Edinburgh 1818 Sketchbook Introduction).

Thomas Ardill
December 2007

Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.426 no.1066.
Wilton 1979, p.426 no.1069.

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