TURNER, Joseph Mallord William
(b. 1775, London, d. 1851, Chelsea)

Dutch Boats in a Gale

Oil on canvas, 163 x 221 cm
National Gallery, London

The painting is also called The Bridgewater Sea-Piece.

It was in marine painting, then regarded virtually as a branch of landscape, and in mountain subjects that Turner's personal vision was first clearly seen. In both the Old Masters played a part. His first exhibited oil had been a moonlit sea-piece, and it was as a companion to a picture by the Dutch painter Willem van de Velde (1611-93) that the future Duke of Bridgewater commissioned Dutch Boats in a Gale in 1801. Turner responded with a vivid account of churning seas and a sky divided between storm clouds and breaking sunshine, in which all is moving and changing. His vigorous painting of waves, viewed from within their troughs, showed his urgent sense of the medium.

Turner's composition resembles that of his 17th-century predecessor, but Turner added an important dramatic element: the collision of the two ships in the foreground seems unavoidable.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.