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Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1775–1851
Wreckers -- Coast of Northumberland, with a Steam-Boat Assisting a Ship off Shore
Former Title(s):
Wreckers,--coast of Northumberland, with a steam-boat assisting a ship off shore
between 1833 and 1834
Materials & Techniques:
Oil on canvas
35 5/8 x 47 9/16 inches (90.5 x 120.8 cm), Frame: 48 1/4 × 60 1/4 × 3 1/2 inches (122.6 × 153 × 8.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
beach | castle | danger | gangs | landscape | marine art | men | rocks (landforms) | sea | seascape | ships | shipwreck | shore (landform) | steamboat | waves (natural events) | wind | wreckers (people)
Associated Places:
Dunstanburgh Castle | England | North Sea | Northumberland | United Kingdom
On view at the Yale University Art Gallery
IIIF Manifest:

Wreckers captures J. M. W. Turner’s recurrent exploration of the conflict between human culture and the power of nature. A masted ship flounders off the wild coast of Northumberland while a steamship tries desperately to come to its aid. Meanwhile, wreckers on the beach wait with ropes and nets to plunder whatever of value washes to shore. The old castle of Dunstanburgh looms menacingly in the background, battered by the storm but unyielding. Turner exhibited Wreckers at the Royal Academy in 1834 and again at the British Institution in 1836, when it was described by one critic as “a very great picture . . . a production of true genius.” It was bought in 1844 by Turner’s friend Elhanan Bicknell.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016

Wreckers were gangs who, otherwise permitted by law to take possession of scavenged debris and goods from wrecked ships, often lured them ashore by setting false lights near dangerous rocks. The danger was real, and numerous wrecks were deliberately caused and innocent lives lost as a result. The theme of shipwreck was a lifelong fascination for Turner, a sign of the ultimate helplessness and ignominy of man in the face of the cold power of the elements. But this scene may relate to an incident he himself witnessed in 1831 on his way home from a tour of Scotland. The castle in the background is Dunstanborough. After it was exhibited at the R.A., the picture was praised by the critic of the Spectator as combining “the truth of nature with the splendour of Turner.”

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2007

YUAG European Galleries (Yale University Art Gallery, 2023-12-01 - 2025-01-15) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

In a New Light: Paintings from the Yale Center for British Art (Yale University Art Gallery, 2023-03-24 - 2023-12-03) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

Turner's Modern World (Museum of Fine Arts Boston, 2022-03-27 - 2022-07-10) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Turner's Modern World (Kimbell Art Museum, 2021-10-17 - 2022-02-06) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

The Critique of Reason : Romantic Art, 1760–1860 (Yale University Art Gallery, 2015-03-06 - 2015-07-26) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Turner, Monet, Twombly (Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, 2012-02-11 - 2012-05-28) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Turner, Monet, Twombly (Moderna Museet, 2011-10-08 - 2012-01-15) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Turner : The Late Seascapes (Clark Art Institute, 2003-06-14 - 2003-09-08) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Great British Paintings from American Collections: Holbein to Hockney (Yale Center for British Art, 2001-09-27 - 2001-12-30) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

Turner 1996 (National Gallery of Victoria, 1996-06-23 - 1996-09-09) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Turner 1996 (National Gallery of Australia, 1996-03-17 - 1996-06-10) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

J. M. W. Turner (Musée du Louvre, 1983-10-14 - 1984-01-16) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Acquisitions : The First Decade 1977-1986, Yale Center for British Art , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1986, pp. 9, 20, no. 54, N590.2 A7 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's Legacy: a Passion for British Art: Masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, p. 33, fig. 7, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

David Blayney Brown, M. W. Turner: Painting Set Free, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2014, pp. 144, 145, fig. 45, NJ18.T85 J1552 2014 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

David Blayney Brown, Turner's Modern World, Tate Publishing, London, p. 193, no. 146, NJ18.T85 A12 2020a Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Martin Butlin, The paintings of J.M.W. Turner, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, New Haven, 1984, pp. 206-07, no. 357, pl. 360, NJ18 T85 B885 1984 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Malcolm Cormack, Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 226-227, N590.2 A83 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Catherine M. Gordon, British paintings Hogarth to Turner, Frederick Warne, London, 1981, p. 67, ND466 G67 (YCBA) [YCBA]

James Hamilton, Turner, the late seascapes , Yale University Press, New Haven, 2003, p. 31, fig. 21, NJ18 T85 H253 2003 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

J.M.W. Turner à l'occasion du cinquantième anniversaire du British Council, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, 14 octobre 1983-16 janvier 1984. , Editions Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris, 1983, pp. 117-18, no. 54, NJ18 T85 J14 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Evelyn Joll, Turner at Dunstonborough, Turner Studies, vol. 8, no. 2, 1988, p. 6-7, fig. 8, NJ18 T85 T87 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Jeremy Lewison, Turner, Monet, Twombly, later paintings , Moderna Museet, Stockholm, 2011, pp. 21-22, 29, 109, cat. no. 14, NJ18.T85 L53 2011 Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Michael Lloyd, Turner, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 1996, pp. 45-7,54, 231, no. 16, NJ18 T85 L57 1996 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Julia Marciari-Alexander, This other Eden : Paintings from the Yale Center for British Art, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1998, pp. 16-17, fig. 16, ND1314.3 Y36 1998 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Paul Mellon's Legacy : a passion for British art [large print labels], , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, v. 3, N5220 M552 P381 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Christiana Payne, Smugglers, Poachers, and Wreckers in 19th Century English Painting, Cahiers victoriens & eduardiens, vol 61, 2005, p. 168, fig. 2, PR461 C4 (SML) [ORBIS]

Christiana Payne, Where the sea meets the land, artists on the coast in nineteenth century Britain , Sansom & Co., Bristol, 2007, ND1373 G7 P38 2007 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Graham Reynolds, Turner : with a new introduction by David Blayney Brown, Thames & Hudson, London, fig. 156, NJ18.T85 R49 2020 (YCBA) [YCBA]

W. Roberts, The Art Sales of 1897, Magazine of Art, January 1898, p. 140, N1 M34 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Douglas Robillard, Melville and the visual arts, Ionian form, Venetian tint , Kent State University Press, Kent, Ohio, 1997, fig. 6, PS2388. A75 R63 1997 (SML) [ORBIS]

Duncan Robinson, Acquisitions : The First Decade 1977 - 1986, , Burlington Magazine, vol. 128, October 1986, pp. 9, 20, no. 54, N1 B87 128:3 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Sam Smiles, The late works of J. M. W. Turner : the artist and his critics, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London, p. 262, fig. 158, NJ18.t85 S655 2020 Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

The critique of reason : Romantic art, 1760-1860 : March 6-July 26, 2015, Yale University Art Gallery, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, 2015, [pp. 44, 6], front and back covers; fig. 8, V 2574 (YCBA) [YCBA]

The Exhibition of the Royal Academy, Somerset House, Arnold's Magazine of the Fine Arts, vol. 4:8, June 1834, p. 136, Available on line: British Periodicals II Also available: WC 13072 (LSF - MUDD) [ORBIS]

Joyce H. Townsend, How Turner Painted: Materials & Techniques, Thames & Hudson, London, p. 58, NJ18.T85 T642 2019 (LC) (YCBA) [YCBA]

Malcolm Warner, Great British paintings from American collections : Holbein to Hockney, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2001, p. 177, no. 52, ND464 W27 2001 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Ian Warrell, Turner and Venice, Tate Publishing, London, 2003, no. 9, NJ18 T85 W36 2003 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

John Wilmerding, Essays in honor of Paul Mellon, collector and benefactor, Essays , National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC & Hanover, NH, 1986, pp. 260-61, fig. 3, N7442.2 M455 1986 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Andrew Wilton, The life and work of J.M.W. Turner, Academy Editions, London, 1979, p. 281, No. P357, NJ18 T85 +W577 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

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