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 6 in Turner Collection

Found in Turner’s Studio: Seascapes

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Art in Found in Turner’s Studio: Seascapes

A Disaster at Sea

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Joseph Mallord William Turner
A Disaster at Sea
?c.1835

This canvas was never exhibited and is probably unfinished, but remains one of Turner's most powerful statements on the Romantic theme of maritime disaster. Its pyramidal composition leaves little doubt that Turner had seen Géricault's Raft of the Medusa (now in the Louvre, Paris) described by one critic as ‘this tremendous picture of human sufferings’, when it was exhibited in London in 1822. Turner's own subject is the wreck of the Amphitrite off Boulogne in 1833. The ship's captain abandoned his cargo of female convicts, claiming that he was only authorised to land them in New South Wales.

Gallery label, March 2010

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

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

In later life, Turner spent a lot of his time in Margate. Here, he was able to study the coast at different times of day and in various weather conditions. He made many works in oil or watercolour in which the sea itself was the main subject.

This picture looks across the sands to Margate’s harbour wall and lighthouse. The rough waves crash against the shore and create white spray, depicted with thick layers of paint. Although the sky on the right is grey, above Margate it is golden and bright.

Gallery label, April 2019

Seascape with Buoy

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Joseph Mallord William Turner
Seascape with Buoy
c.1840

It is not difficult to see this canvas as the raw beginnings of the kind of marine subject Turner had painted from the 1830s onwards, in emulation of seventeenth-century Dutch painters.

In one famous anecdote, Turner added a bright red buoy to the foreground of a seapiece he was finishing at the Royal Academy. This was apparently a deliberate attempt to upstage the brilliance of a painting by Constable hanging nearby. Here, however, the buoy already forms part of Turner's conception of his image, implying that the scene was intended to evoke the hazards of shipping.

Gallery label, September 2004

The Chain Pier, Brighton

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Joseph Mallord William Turner
The Chain Pier, Brighton
c.1828

The Chain Pier shown here had only recently been completed. Both Turner and John Constable painted pictures of this pier, which was the most visible sign of Brighton’s status as a centre for modern trade and tourism.

This is a version of one of the four compositions Turner painted for the Carved Room at Petworth in Sussex, the great house belonging to the Earl of Egremont. The unusually long format was used so that the pictures would fit under full-length portraits. The subjects of these pictures reflected Egremont’s interests in local agriculture and commerce

Gallery label, August 2004

Breakers on a Flat Beach

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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 the county of Kent. Travelling by steam boat, Turner could be there just a few hours after leaving central London. He is said to have particularly prized the coastal light, claiming that the skies over the Isle of Thanet were the most beautiful in Europe.

This painting probably resulted from his visits to Margate, though it is not known whether Turner actually created a studio at his temporary lodgings; he could have painted such images from memory back in London.

Gallery label, September 2004

Shipping at the Mouth of the Thames

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

This unfinished canvas shows how Turner prepared and began the breezy marines that he exhibited, mainly at his own Gallery, around 1807-9. It is freely brushed in delicate colours over a pale ground to enhance the atmospherics and luminosity of a finished work.

The scene is the Thames Estuary, probably off Sheerness. As in Turner’s exhibited Thames sea-pieces of this period, fishing and smaller boats are juxtaposed with a man-of-war, perhaps the naval guardship stationed at the Nore.

Gallery label, February 2010

A Ship Aground, Yarmouth; Sample Study

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

This is painted on the same format, and to the same degree of finish, as Turner's initial versions of the set of pictures commissioned by the Earl of Egremont for installation at Petworth. The subject was presumably offered to the Earl as a further alternative, but was rejected, either by the artist or by his patron. Instead, Turner adapted it for a picture exhibited in 1831, Fort Vimieux.

Gallery label, August 2001

A Wreck, with Fishing Boats

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

Turner made many of his later seapieces powerfully immediate and disorientating by not including any foreground or landscape reference points. This absence of traditional framing devices immerses the viewer more directly in the tempestuous scene.

Here, the paint suggesting the white crests of the waves is vigorously applied, often with a palette knife. In the distance you can see the sails of one or two smaller boats alongside the bluish hull of a much bigger wrecked ship, possibly recalling an incident Turner witnessed off the coast of Kent.

For conservation reasons this picture cannot be displayed without a frame.

Gallery label, February 2004

Coast Scene with Fishermen and Boats

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Joseph Mallord William Turner
Coast Scene with Fishermen and Boats
c.1806–7

From about 1805, Turner painted a series of marine pictures inspired by boat trips he took down the Thames towards the Estuary. These show naval ships, or as in this work, fishing boats and activities closer to the shoreline. The scene appears to be on the south bank of the Thames, looking east.
This work could be a sketch for a proposed picture or possibly the beginning for one. The main features are sketched in over a pale ground that, if painted over, would have added a luminous quality to the finished picture.

Gallery label, February 2019

Art in this room

A Disaster at Sea
Joseph Mallord William Turner A Disaster at Sea ?c.1835
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 Chain Pier, Brighton
Joseph Mallord William Turner The Chain Pier, Brighton c.1828
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

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