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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Sailors Getting Pigs on Board a Boat in a Choppy Sea 1792-3

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Sailors Getting Pigs on Board a Boat in a Choppy Sea 1792–3
Turner Bequest XXIII T 2
Pencil, watercolour and pen and brown ink on white wove paper, 222 x 273 mm
Stamped in black ‘XXIII T’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Pencil studies related to the subjects on this sheet are Tate D00397 (Turner Bequest XXIII W), D00398 (Turner Bequest XXIII X); another is D40243 (XXIII T 1), to which the present sheet was originally attached. This is the first purely marine subject that Turner tackled. In its almost exclusive concentration on the sea itself (there is a distant glimpse of cliffs at the left), and the behaviour of people in relation to the sea, it anticipates the themes of many of his mature oil paintings. However, related sketches (D00397 and D00398) show him planning to introduce a foreground element: a cart on the shore with a recalcitrant horse, and a man running (compare Tate D00396; Turner Bequest XXIII V). This would be consistent with his ideas for fishing subjects seen from the shore, executed in the early 1800s.
Finberg, however, suggests that the latter drawing is a second idea, following what he sees as an incongruous presentation of the material:
There is one animated little drawing with brown ink outlines of sailors getting some obstreperous pigs on board a small coasting vessel in a strong gale of wind. Apparently the cart has been driven into the sea beside the vessel, an impossible feat in such a sea; the sea must also be too deep for the wheels of the cart to rest on the ground, and if the wheels touch the bottom there is not enough water for the two boats. But in spite of the minor defects the subject provides scope for a fine animated group of men in the cart struggling with the pigs, who have determined to precipitate themselves into the water rather than go where they are wanted.1
The subject is an early instance of Turner’s introducing humour into his record of human activity. A drawing treating similar themes in a slightly different way is on the verso of this sheet (D40053).

Andrew Wilton
April 2012

Finberg 1910, p.43.

How to cite

Andrew Wilton, ‘Sailors Getting Pigs on Board a Boat in a Choppy Sea 1792–3 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, April 2012, 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-sailors-getting-pigs-on-board-a-boat-in-a-choppy-sea-r1141148, accessed 21 September 2021.