AMY CONCANNON: ‘The Shipwreck’ bears many of the hallmarks of an early Turner seascape. It’s got a dark and broody Rembrandt-like light scheme, and he’s drawing on the long history of epic disaster paintings based on shipwrecks.
NARRATOR: Curator, Amy Concannon. AMY CONCANNON: We’re at sea with the sailors in this painting, so that intensifies the feelings of danger and drama that are going on in the subject matter, because what we’re looking at is a group of sailors who’ve come to rescue another group who have abandoned their ship which is being wrecked. You can see it just behind the main groups of sailors in the background. You can see the ship has gone down, it’s broken, it’s been battered by the storm, and Turner really gives a sense of this storm by these very intense and very intimidating waves that are being whipped up to great heights by the wind. NARRATOR: Turner exhibited this painting in 1805 at his own gallery in Harley Street. AMY CONCANNON: It was very popular with visitors to the gallery and Turner capitalised on this success by inviting people to subscribe and to put together funds for the making of a print. This makes ‘The Shipwreck’ even more important because this was the first oil painting by Turner to be engraved for reproduction and it thus marks the beginning of a very fruitful relationship with the print making industry that would only serve to multiply his fame.