#FineArtFriday: Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth J.M.W. Turner 1842

J.M.W. Turner

Title: Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth

Artist: J. M. W. Turner

Year: 1842

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: 91 cm × 122 cm (36 in × 48 in)

Location: Tate, London, Great Britain

About this Picture, Via Wikipedia:

The painting depicts a paddle steamer caught in a snow storm. This marine painting is showing a Romantic era’s painter’s depiction of a snowstorm on water at its best, fully developing the bold, daring Romantic fantasy of Turner. Turner was unrivaled in depicting the natural world unmastered by mankind and exploring the effects of the elements and the battle of the forces of the nature. Turner worked first as a watercolorist, and he started to work much later with oils. He later applied the techniques he learned in watercolour onto oil paintings.

It is typical of the late style of Turner. Turner’s tints and shades of colours are painted in different layers of colour, the brushstrokes adding texture to the painting. The colours are monochromatic, only a few shades of grey, green and brown are present, having the same tone of colours. The silvery pale light that surrounds the boat creates a focal point, drawing the viewer into the painting. The smoke from the steamboat spreads out over the sky, creating abstract shapes of the same quality like the waves.

An inscription on the painting relates that The Author was in this Storm on the Night the “Ariel” left Harwich. Turner later recounted a story about the background of the painting:

“I did not paint it to be understood, but I wished to show what such a scene was like; I got the sailors to lash me to the mast to observe it; I was lashed for four hours, and I did not expect to escape, but I felt bound to record it if I did.”

He was 67 years old at the time. Some later commentators doubt the literal truth of this account. Other critics accept Turner’s account, and one wrote, “He empathized completely with the dynamic form of sovereign nature.”  This inscription allows us to better understand the scene represented and the confusion of elements.

Turner had investigated the interactions between nature and the new technology of steamboats in at least five paintings in the previous decade. Throughout his career, Turner engaged with issues of urbanism, industry, railroads and steam power. [1]

About the Artist, Via Wikipedia:

Joseph Mallord William Turner RA (23 April 1775 – 19 December 1851), known in his time as William Turner, was an English Romantic painter, printmaker and watercolourist. He is known for his expressive colourisations, imaginative landscapes and turbulent, often violent marine paintings. He left behind more than 550 oil paintings, 2,000 watercolours, and 30,000 works on paper. He was championed by the leading English art critic John Ruskin from 1840, and is today regarded as having elevated landscape painting to an eminence rivalling history painting.

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, when 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:

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Snow_Storm:_Steam-Boat_off_a_Harbour%27s_Mouth&oldid=1000619190 (accessed March 3, 2022).

[2] Wikipedia contributors, “J. M. W. Turner,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=J._M._W._Turner&oldid=1075008053 (accessed March 3, 2022).

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Joseph Mallord William Turner – Snow Storm – Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth – WGA23178.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Joseph_Mallord_William_Turner_-_Snow_Storm_-_Steam-Boat_off_a_Harbour%27s_Mouth_-_WGA23178.jpg&oldid=618892271 (accessed March 3, 2022).


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2 responses to “#FineArtFriday: Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth J.M.W. Turner 1842

  1. Johanna Flynn

    Incredible! Good choice this week, Connie.

    Liked by 1 person