Joseph Mallord William Turner, ‘Shipping at the Mouth of the Thames’ c.1806–7
Joseph Mallord William Turner, Shipping at the Mouth of the Thames c.1806–7 . Tate

Room 3 in Turner Collection

Found in Turner’s Studio: Seascapes

Waves Breaking on a Lee Shore at Margate (Study for ‘Rockets and Blue Lights’)

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Waves Breaking on a Lee Shore at Margate (Study for ‘Rockets and Blue Lights’)  c.1840

In the 1830s and 1840s Turner made dozens of watercolours and oil paintings based on close observation of the sea from the shore. He developed some of these sketches into exhibited pictures. Others were used as studies for larger paintings or left unfinished. He used a palette of cool greys, blues and greens, enlivened by a thick application of white to evoke the spray of the crashing waves.

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Seascape with Buoy

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Seascape with Buoy  c.1840

This canvas is probably the raw beginnings of the kind of marine subject Turner painted from the 1830s onwards. He styled them after the paintings of 17th-century Dutch artists. He has painted a buoy in the foreground. As buoys mark shipping lanes or warn against invisible underwater obstacles, Turner may be hinting at the hazards of sailing.

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The Ponte Delle Torri, Spoleto

Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Ponte Delle Torri, Spoleto  c.1840–5

Spoleto is a picturesque town in Umbria, famous for its Ponte delle Torri (Bridge of Towers), a medieval feat of engineering which spans the deep gorge to the east. Turner passed through the town on his way to Rome in 1819. As in so many of his Italian-inspired oils, he has enhanced real topography with an evocative but imagined sense of atmosphere. The composition is reworked from an earlier image known as ‘Bridge and Goats’. That etching was published in 1812 as part of the Liber Studiorum, a series of prints summing up Turner’s achievements in landscape to date.

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Breakers on a Flat Beach

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Breakers on a Flat Beach  c.1835–40

From the late 1820s, Turner made regular visits to the fashionable resort of Margate, near the eastern tip of Kent. Travelling from central London by steamboat, Turner could be there in just a few hours. He is said to have particularly prized the coastal light. The skies over the Isle of Thanet, he claimed, were the most beautiful in Europe.
This painting probably resulted from his visits to Margate. We don’t know whether Turner had a studio at his lodgings, however. He could have painted it from memory back in London.

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Shipping at the Mouth of the Thames

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Shipping at the Mouth of the Thames  c.1806–7

This breezy scene is the Thames Estuary, probably off Sheerness Turner places fishing and smaller boats next to a man-of-war guardship. This is perhaps the naval ship stationed at the Nore anchoring-ground.
The unfinished canvas shows how Turner prepared and began the marine paintings he exhibited around 1807–9, mainly at his own Gallery. It is freely brushed in delicate colours over a pale background. This enhances the light effects and luminosity of the finished work.

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A Ship Aground, Yarmouth; Sample Study

Joseph Mallord William Turner, A Ship Aground, Yarmouth; Sample Study  c.1827–8

One of Turner’s patrons was the Earl of Egremont, the owner of Petworth House. The Earl commissioned Turner to paint Petworth and other subjects to go on display in the house. This study is the same format and a similar finish as a set of pictures still at Petworth. This work may have been painted for the Earl as part of the same series.

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Sketch for ‘East Cowes Castle, the Regatta Beating to Windward’ No. 3

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Sketch for ‘East Cowes Castle, the Regatta Beating to Windward’ No. 3  1827

Turner possibly made this sketch on board a ship moored in the Solent. This was only the second Cowes Regatta. The yacht race is still an annual event today. Turner’s interest in 17th-century Dutch sea painting and his delight in this modern sporting occasion combine in a dynamic composition. It is one of several oil sketches of the same subject for a painting commissioned by architect John Nash. Turner stayed with Nash at his self-designed East Cowes Castle on the Isle of Wight. Since demolished, it gleams here on the distant hill.

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artworks in Found in Turner’s Studio: Seascapes

A Wreck, with Fishing Boats

Joseph Mallord William Turner, A Wreck, with Fishing Boats  c.1840–5

Many of Turner’s later seascapes are powerfully immediate and disorientating. He achieved this affect by not including any foreground or landscape reference points. The absence of these traditional framing devices immerses the viewer more directly in the storm. Here, the paint suggesting the white crests of the waves is vigorously applied, often with a palette knife. In the distance are the sails of one or two smaller boats alongside the bluish hull of a much bigger wrecked ship. This possibly recalls an incident Turner witnessed off the coast of Kent.

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Sketch for ‘East Cowes Castle, the Regatta Starting for Their Moorings’ No. 2

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Sketch for ‘East Cowes Castle, the Regatta Starting for Their Moorings’ No. 2  1827

Turner probably created this outdoors, perhaps on board a ship. He painted it, along with other sketches, on a long roll of canvas. This has since been cut up to display each sketch. It was probably painted on the morning of the Cowes Regatta. Yachts appear on the left, which from Turner's viewpoint in the harbour means they were setting out on the race. He used this sketch as a basis for a painting of the Cowes Regatta, made for the architect John Nash who lived at East Cowes Castle.

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artworks in Found in Turner’s Studio: Seascapes

Between Decks

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Between Decks  1827

Turner made this sketch in 1827 showing fellow spectators at the Cowes Regatta. It appears to have been painted on board a man-of-war naval ship. Turner may have painted the sketches of yachts racing in Cowes, on display nearby, from the same ship. This sketch was never turned into a finished painting.

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artworks in Found in Turner’s Studio: Seascapes

Art in this room

Waves Breaking on a Lee Shore at Margate (Study for ‘Rockets and Blue Lights’)
Joseph Mallord William Turner Waves Breaking on a Lee Shore at Margate (Study for ‘Rockets and Blue Lights’) c.1840
Seascape with Buoy
Joseph Mallord William Turner Seascape with Buoy c.1840
The Ponte Delle Torri, Spoleto
Joseph Mallord William Turner The Ponte Delle Torri, Spoleto c.1840–5
Breakers on a Flat Beach
Joseph Mallord William Turner Breakers on a Flat Beach c.1835–40
Shipping at the Mouth of the Thames
Joseph Mallord William Turner Shipping at the Mouth of the Thames c.1806–7
A Ship Aground, Yarmouth; Sample Study
Joseph Mallord William Turner A Ship Aground, Yarmouth; Sample Study c.1827–8

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