#FineArtFriday: Dort or Dordrecht: The Dort packet-boat from Rotterdam becalmed by J. M. W. Turner 1818

B1977.14.77

Artist: J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851)

Title: Dort or Dordrecht: The Dort packet-boat from Rotterdam becalmed

Genre: marine art

Date: 1818

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: Height: 157.5 cm (62 in); Width: 233.7 cm (92 in)

Collection: Yale Center for British Art

What I love about this painting:

The colors show us a windless evening in summer or fall, a time of day when the smoke from factories and chimneys lingers and turns the sky brown and gold, reflected on the waters.

This is a glimpse into the history of how we once moved goods and mail across long distances. Some packet boats were medium-sized ships, able to navigate shallow rivers and canals. Others were ocean-going vessels. Some were steam driven, but the one we see in this painting is an early ship, powered by the wind.

The wind has failed, and so the crew is being ferried off the ship via a smaller row-boat.

About this painting via Wikipedia:

The Dort, or Dort or Dordrecht: The Dort packet-boat from Rotterdam becalmed is an 1818 painting by J. M. W. Turner, based on drawings made by him in mid-September 1817.  It shows a view of the harbour of Dordrecht. It is the finest example of the influence of Dutch marine painting on Turner’s work.

It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1818, where it was described by The Morning Chronicle as “one of the most magnificent pictures ever exhibited, and does honour to the age”. In 1832, John Constable wrote of the picture, “I remember most of Turner’s early works; amongst them one of singular intricacy and beauty; it was a canal with numerous boats making thousands of beautiful shapes, and I think the most complete work of a genius I ever saw”.

It was purchased by Walter Fawkes for 500 guineas at the request of his son, and hung in the drawing room at Farnley Hall until it was bought by Paul Mellon in 1966. It was then donated to the Yale Center for British Art upon the founding of the centre. [1]

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Joseph Mallard William Turner was born in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London, to a modest lower-middle-class family. He lived in London all his life, retaining his Cockney accent and assiduously avoiding the trappings of success and fame. A child prodigy, Turner studied at the Royal Academy of Arts from 1789, enrolling when he was 14, and exhibited his first work there at 15. During this period, he also served as an architectural draftsman. He earned a steady income from commissions and sales, which due to his troubled, contrary nature, were often begrudgingly accepted. He opened his own gallery in 1804 and became professor of perspective at the academy in 1807, where he lectured until 1828. He travelled to Europe from 1802, typically returning with voluminous sketchbooks.

Intensely private, eccentric and reclusive, Turner was a controversial figure throughout his career. He did not marry, but fathered two daughters, Eveline (1801–1874) and Georgiana (1811–1843), by his housekeeper Sarah Danby. He became more pessimistic and morose as he got older, especially after the death of his father, after which his outlook deteriorated, his gallery fell into disrepair and neglect, and his art intensified. In 1841, Turner rowed a boat into the Thames so he could not be counted as present at any property in that year’s census. He lived in squalor and poor health from 1845, and died in London in 1851 aged 76. Turner is buried in Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London. [2]


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:DortorDordrecht.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:DortorDordrecht.jpg&oldid=554289467 (accessed October 28, 2021).

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “Dort or Dordrecht: The Dort packet-boat from Rotterdam becalmed,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Dort_or_Dordrecht:_The_Dort_packet-boat_from_Rotterdam_becalmed&oldid=1000618596 (accessed October 28, 2021).

[2] Wikipedia contributors, “J. M. W. Turner,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=J._M._W._Turner&oldid=1050867512 (accessed October 28, 2021).

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