Joseph Mallord William Turner

Vignette Study of a Ship at Sea for ‘The Andes Coast’, Campbell’s ‘Poetical Works’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 215 × 295 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 7

Display caption

An edition of Thomas Campbell's poetry, with illustrations by Turner, was published in 1837. The twenty finished designs are now in the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh, but the Turner Bequest contains a number of preparatory studies for the series. This watercolour relates to one of the four illustrations to Campbell's poem 'The Pleasures of Hope', entitled 'The Andes Coast'. The colours adopted here, and the device of the moon setting over the sea, were retained in the finished work. However, there the pink clouds were transformed into a mountainous coastline.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

This watercolour sketch is a preparatory study for Turner’s finished vignette, The Andes Coast circa 1835 (National Gallery of Scotland), which he designed to accompany part of Thomas Campbell’s poem, ‘The Pleasures of Hope’.1 The illustration was engraved by Edward Goodall and published in Edward Moxon’s 1837 edition of Campbell’s Poetical Works.2 Turner’s vignette provides a fitting illustration of Campbell’s description of a little boat sailing beneath the sublime coastline of the Andes:
Angel of life! Thy glittering wings explore
Earth’s loneliest bounds, and Ocean’s wildest shore.
Lo! To the wintry winds the pilot yields
His bark careering o’er unfathom’d fields;
Now on Atlantic waves he rides afar,
Where Andes, giant of the western star,
With meteor-standard to the winds unfurl’d.
Looks from his throne of clouds o’er half the world!
(Poetical Works of Thomas Campbell, 1837, pp.3–4)
There are seven other watercolour studies in the Turner Bequest that may relate to The Andes Coast (see Tate D27528, D27558, D27563, D27568, D27572, D27654, and D27726; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 11, 41, 46, 51, 55, 137, and 209). Most feature the motif of a solitary ship amidst a stormy sea. The composition and palette of this sketch is the most closed related to the final illustration, although the finished watercolour naturally contains a degree of detail and fine brushwork that is absent in the study. There is also some resemblance to another preparatory study (see Tate D27528; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 11).
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, no.1272; reproduced in colour in Mungo Campbell, A Complete Catalogue of Works by Turner in the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh 1993, p.55.
Thomas Campbell, Poetical Works, London; W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., vol.II, London 1913, no.614. There is one impression in Tate’s collection (T04766).
Inscribed by an unknown hand in pencil ‘D27524’ bottom left

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

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