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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner ?The Stern of a Boat; Study of a Cloudy Sky c.1808-18

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 68 Verso:
?The Stern of a Boat; Study of a Cloudy Sky c.1808–18
Turner Bequest CLIV a 67a
Pencil on white wove paper, 89 x 112 mm
Inscribed by Turner in pencil ‘4’ centre left, ‘Copper Bottom’ bottom left, and ‘[?Rudder] Eggs Straw | Ha[...] shadow | [?Hands] Blue & | Pitcher | [?Flag top] | B[...]’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Inverted relative to the foliation, this page has a sense almost of a series of doodles or at least quick, spontaneous observations, both pictorial and verbal. At the top left appears to be some sort of broad pot or jug with a narrower neck. The scattering of marks at the top right suggest birds in flight. At the bottom right are jotted observations of miscellaneous objects and colours. The apparent references to ‘Rudder’ and ‘Flag’ perhaps relate to what seems to be a study of the stern and rudder of a boat or ship flying a flag. There may be a connection with the forms of the shipping indicated in the thumbnail sketch of Turner’s painting Dort, or Dordrecht, the Dort Packet-Boat from Rotterdam Becalmed, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1818 (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven),1 on folio 70 recto (D12223; Turner Bequest CLIV a 69).
Other slight forms at the bottom of the page are less clear, although it is the dark shape above a zigzag just possibly evokes the silhouetted water bird reflected in ripples in the foreground of the Dort. There is also a very brief continuation, inscribed ‘4’, from the cloud study on folio 69 recto opposite (D12221).

Matthew Imms
September 2013

Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London, pp.102–4 no.137, pl.140 (colour).

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘?The Stern of a Boat; Study of a Cloudy Sky c.1808–18 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, September 2013, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, September 2014, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-the-stern-of-a-boat-study-of-a-cloudy-sky-r1147637, accessed 17 January 2022.