J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner A Storm at Sea: Study after 'The Bridgewater Sea Piece' c.1807-19

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
A Storm at Sea: Study after ‘The Bridgewater Sea Piece’ circa 1807–19
Turner Bequest CXV 45
Watercolour on white wove lightweight writing paper, 231 x 328 mm
Watermark ‘J Whatman | 1807’
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CXV – 45’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This drawing is a rapid notation of the main points of Turner’s large painting Dutch Boats in a Gale: Fishermen Endeavouring to Put their Fish on Board, known as ‘The Bridgewater Sea Piece’, commissioned by the Duke of Bridgewater and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1801 (private collection, on long-term loan to the National Gallery, London).1 As the painting remained in the family collection after the Duke’s death in 1803, it may be that Turner arranged to see it again a few years later to record it – the proportions and juxtapositions of the forms are fairly accurate, albeit simplified – although the present sketch was not developed any further for the Liber Studiorum. In the absence of specific evidence, the span of the Liber’s active publication, 1807–19, is suggested here as a date range (as it is for various other unpublished designs).
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.12–13 no.14, pl.11 (colour).
Technical notes:
The centre of the composition has suffered fading owing to prolonged exposure to light while mounted and displayed. The brown washes in this area have lost their warmth, although a greyer tone may possibly have been used originally for the sea and details of the boat. The sails were reserved, then lightly washed; the bright sky above the horizon was left as bare paper.
Finberg grouped this sheet with the Studies for Liber sketchbook,1 though it had been removed (either by Turner himself or for display in the First Loan Collection from 1869);2 as he could not re-establish the original folio sequence of the detached pages (Tate D08098–D08101; Turner Bequest CXV 45–48), Finberg listed them following on from the ink numbers inscribed on the sheets remaining in the book. The sheet has been neatly trimmed on the left, losing about 53 mm of its original width. As Gillian Forrester has noted, an equally slight wash sketch of Bligh Sands (Tate D08231; Turner Bequest CXX Q) is on a sheet which was originally part of the same sketchbook.3
Finberg 1909, I, pp.314–15, CXV.
For venues and dates see Warrell 1991, p.39.
Gillian Forrester, Turner’s ‘Drawing Book’: The Liber Studiorum, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1996, p.24 note 81.
Blank, save for inscriptions.
Inscribed in pencil ‘CXV – 45’ and ‘D.08095’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘[Turner Bequest monogram] | CXV – 45’ bottom centre
There are splashes or offsets of brown wash to the left of centre, with darker, mottled rubbing or offsetting at the lower centre.

Matthew Imms
May 2006

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘A Storm at Sea: Study after ‘The Bridgewater Sea Piece’ c.1807–19 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, May 2006, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-a-storm-at-sea-study-after-the-bridgewater-sea-piece-r1131850, accessed 14 June 2024.