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Creator Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1775–1851, British
Title A Paddle-steamer in a Storm
Alternate Title(s) Steamboat in a Storm
Steam Boat and Storm
Steamboat in a storm
Date ca. 1841
Medium Watercolor, graphite and scratching out on medium, slightly textured, cream wove paper
Dimensions Sheet: 9 1/8 x 11 3/8 inches (23.2 x 28.9 cm)
Inscribed in graphite, verso, upper center: "B 2"
Credit Line Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Accession Number B1977.14.4717
Collection Prints and Drawings
Curatorial Comment Turner was deeply interested in modern technology and particularly fascinated by steamboats, which appealed to him for both aesthetic and practical reasons. First introduced in Britain in 1801, the steamboat was established as a form of public transportation in 1812 and rapidly became widespread. Turner made frequent sketching tours in Britain and on the Continent, and the development of steam navigation enabled him to travel more widely and rapidly. The artist was often exercised by the problem of depicting “the wavy air, as some call the wind,” as he noted in one of his sketchbooks; the black smoke produced by steamboats, however, enabled Turner to track the movement of air currents in addition to offering a vehicle for articulating a new poetics of modernity (Taft, 2001). The steamship recurred frequently in Turner’s work from the early 1820s, often apparently celebrating technological progress, though appearing sinister or even demonic, and sometimes pitted against the forces of nature. Critics were initially skeptical about the appropriateness of steamboats as a subject for art, but by 1836 a writer in the “Quarterly Review” was praising Turner for introducing “a new instance of the beautiful” (Rodner, 1997, p. 45). In this drawing the steamer is shown sailing heroically in a menacing storm, the extremity of the weather underscored by Turner's bravura use of scratching out to denote the flash of lightning and the foam under the steamer’s paddles. Both the date and the subject of this bold and atmospheric watercolor are uncertain. Andrew Wilton has plausibly suggested that the location is the Lake of Lucerne (Wilton, “Turner”, 1980, p. 183); Judy Egerton has less convincingly connected the drawing to Turner’s 1830 visit to Staffa, and a third possibility is that the drawing is a view of the Lagoon and relates to his 1840 stay in Venice. Technically, the watercolor is similar to Turner’s work of the early 1840s, and this dating seems most likely.
     -- Gillian Forrester, 2007-01
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Subject Terms air | clouds | clouds | lake | lightning | marine art | marine art | meteorology | movement | rain | science | smoke | steamboat | steamboats | storm | technology | wind
Place Represented Europe | Hebrides | Hebrides, Sea of the | Lucerne, Lake | Scotland | United Kingdom

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, pp. 285-86, no. 93, pl. 93, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Michael Lloyd, Turner, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 1996, pp. 52, 235, no. 85, NJ18 T85 L57 1996 + (YCBA)

Andrew Wilton, The life and work of J.M.W. Turner, Academy Editions, London, 1979, p. 478, No. 1484, NJ18 T85 +W577 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

William S. Rodner, J.M.W. Turner, romantic painter of the industrial revolution, University of California Press, Berkeley, Calif., 1997, p. 45, ND497 T85 R63 1997 (YCBA)

Simon Schama, The Yale Centre for British Art, TLS, the Times Literary Supplement, Issue no. 3923, May 20, 1977, p. 620, Film S748 (SML) , Also avaiable online in TLS Historical Archive (ORBIS)

Andrew Wilton, Turner and the sublime, British Museum Publications, London, 1980, pp. 183-84, no. 113, NJ18 T85 W579 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

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