Turner’s Amazing Maritime Art

November 2020

Turner's Amazing Maritime Art

Dr Sam Willis heads to the new JMW Turner exhibition at the Tate Britain: ‘Turner’s Modern World’. Turner is one of the best known of all British artists and one of history’s greatest maritime artists. His painting The Fighting Temeraire is a national treasure and now appears on the new £20 note. Sam meets the curator of the Turner bequest, David Blayney Brown, and focuses on three of Turner’s paintings: ‘A Maritime Disaster’ a magnificent depiction of the wreck of the Amphitrite, a convict ship carrying female convicts to Australia that ran aground in France in 1833; ‘Snowstorm: Steam-boat off a harbour’s mouth’ one of Turner’s most famous paintings of a catastrophic storm in the North Sea in 1842; and ‘The Fighting Temeraire’. – the dreamlike canvas showing HMS Temeraire, veteran of the Battle of Trafalgar, being towed up the Thames in the setting sun to the breaker’s yard.

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    Sam Willis

    From the Society for Nautical Research, I’m Sam Willis, and this is the Mariner’s Mirror podcast, the world’s number one podcast dedicated to all of maritime history. It’s Saturday, the 29th of October, this continues our extracts from the logbook of the whaler Swan of Hull in 1836. She’s become trapped in the ice between Western Greenland and Baffin Island. The logbook is held in the archives of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

    Whaler Swan

    Saturday 29th October, north-easterly light winds and fine clear weather during the whole of these 24 hours. The strong breezes we’ve had lately is made not the least visible alteration in the ice, the thermometer this day has risen to 19 above zero which feels warm to us after experiencing so great degrees of cold the commencement of this month.

    Sam Willis

    Observations in that exact location made today reveal that still, no ice has formed. Hello, everyone, nice to have you aboard today and what an episode it is. On Monday, I was lucky enough to be invited to a press preview of the new and amazing Turner exhibition at the Tate in London to talk to the curator of the Turner Bequest at the Tate David Blayney Brown. J. M. W. Turner, that’s Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1775 to 1851, painted landscapes, history scenes, he painted them with watercolours, oils, he made prints, he was even an amateur architect. But what we’re interested in more than anything else is that he was a painter of ships and the sea. He’s one of the greatest of all British artists and certainly one of the greatest of all maritime artists. Yes, he painted landscapes and all sorts of different subjects, but he painted the sea more than any other subject; from his earliest sketches on which he built his reputation, to his latest most celebrated works. The sea was central to Turner, just as it was to the cultural life of the nation in the first half of the 19th century. Why are we at the Tate? Well, during his lifetime, Turner had a plan to leave the nation 100 finished paintings which he kept in his studio, and all over his London house; imagine that! I’ve always wondered what he had kept in the downstairs loo. But, for various reasons following a legal challenge to his will, the nation got the entire contents of his studio and his house, that’s around 400 paintings, finished and unfinished sketches, studies, experiments, as well as the well-known exhibited pictures, and the Tate got 10s of thousands of drawings, watercolours, and about 400 sketchbooks. Now, almost all of this is at the Tate, so if you’re interested in Turner, and his art of the sea, or more generally, the way that ships and the sea were depicted in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, then it is essential that you pay this place a visit. And it’s quite appropriate being here in the Tate as well; Turner lived just around the corner, and he died in Chelsea just down the road in 1851. Though of course, if you want to see his tomb, you need to go to St Paul’s Cathedral where he’s buried almost alongside his great hero Horatio Nelson. This latest exhibition based around Turner at the Tate is called Turner’s Modern World. And I’m going to be talking to David about the maritime-themed paintings that feature in the exhibition. We know that Turner was an excellent sailor, that’s an actual quote about him from the past, that he was an excellent sailor. But before we begin, here’s a little quote from a contemporary to leave you in no doubt as to Turner’s interest, his abilities, and the way in which he was perceived in the past. This is from Robert Leslie, son of the great artist Charles Robert Leslie, he was a contemporary artist of Turner. They saw each other regularly at Petworth House, seat of George Wyndham, the Earl of Egremont; he was a great patron of the arts, and if you have a weekend free, I would urge you to go to Petworth. This is the quote: ‘The sun had set beyond the trees at the end of the little lake in Petworth Park; at the other end of this lake was a solitary man, pacing to and fro, watching five or six fishing lines or trimmers, that floated outside the water lilies near the bank. ‘There’, said my father is Mr. Turner, the great sea painter.”
    David, thank you so much for talking to us today tell us about the inspiration behind this exhibition.

    David Blayney Brown

    Well, we have here at the Tate, we have the largest collection anywhere of Turner’s work, and that puts a particular responsibility on us to try and find fresh ways of interpreting it from time to time. So, we do Turner exhibitions we have tended, the last decades or so to do a major one every sort of five, six, or seven years, actually. But we always try to pick a fresh angle. And we became aware the last few years, the one thing we’d never done was to do a show that looked across the whole range of Turner’s modern and contemporary subjects; which seems extraordinary, because he painted so many of them, and many of them are quite well known, and there have been an awful lot that have been written, and many exhibitions done on particular aspects of Turner’s interest in modernity, be it his paintings of the sea or paintings of industry, for example. But there’s never been, believe it or not, a show that actually looks across the whole spectrum of his modern subjects. And that really brought out the fact that of all artists working at the time, certainly in Britain, he covered the widest range of contemporary subject matter. And not only that but in the process of doing so, those modern subjects completely changed his style, so he started painting in a new and modern way. And he really, through doing this, almost invented a kind of template for a modern, socially, politically engaged modern artist, and also, to some extent, helped to invent modern art. So that was really the thinking behind the show.

    Sam Willis

    The first painting we look at is called ‘A Disaster at Sea’, painted around 1839, and it’s enormous; it’s easily two and a half metres wide at the base and two metres tall. It’s one of Turner’s most dramatic canvases on the theme of maritime disaster, and it really is huge. There’s a flurry of white gold and reddish-brown paint, and a tangle of bodies, sea spray, and wreckage. A single upright line dominates the right centre of the canvas, it’s the mast of a ship, with a figure clinging to it, and waving. It’s believed that this was a transport convict ship for female convicts, with some children aboard, wrecked off the French coast near Boulogne in 1833. It caused a terrible scandal because the ship’s captain refused French help to save the women and children; he claimed he was only authorised to land them in New South Wales.
    It’s an unfinished work, it’s of a shipwreck. It’s a theme he comes back to time and again; why was this so relevant to him in his modern world?

    David Blayney Brown

    Well, I mean, shipwrecks interested Turner all his life. I mean he was fascinated by any subject, but sort of dramatic and terrible. Quite a number of his paintings are about catastrophes of one kind or another. I mean, he seems to have thought that disasters and catastrophes, particularly those in which human life is pitted against natural forces, there seemed to have been almost kind of metaphor for the rapidly changing, and to some extent sort of uncontrollably changing times in which he lived. But this one is particularly interesting because it was never exhibited. There is a question about whether it’s finished or not, it’s certainly more finished than a number of his oil sketches. But it was never exhibited, so was it finished and then he decided not to exhibit it? Or was it not exhibited because it was left unfinished? There are those sorts of formal and technical questions that arise about it. But more interesting is the question of whether or not it depicts an actual subject. And that question arises with some of Turner’s other shipwrecks: are they specific ships at specific dates, or were they painted as a kind of synoptic image of maritime disaster? And I think some of them were and some of them were known to be particular events. This one probably has two inspirations behind it. One of which was seeing Theodore Gericault’s painting ‘The Raft of the Medusa’, which of course was painted in Paris and depicts an event in contemporary French history of colonists going off to French Senegal, and then hitting a terrible ship, their ship being wrecked, and many of them having to retreat onto a raft, which floated for days, in terrible sort of conditions and heat, and so on. So, there were these poor people surrounded by water, but there’s no water to drink and no food to eat, and in the end, they resorted to cannibalism, and all sorts of horrors and only a very few survived. And this was seen at the time as being a sort of comment on French society and rather sort of corrupt administration in France because the captain of that ship was not really a properly trained sailor, he’s somebody who got his job because of his aristocratic and upper-class connections and wasn’t really qualified to be in charge of this ship. So it was a sort of comment on France, on the New France, which simply wasn’t working. And in order to get a fresh response to that picture, which is huge, of course, and could never travel nowadays, you couldn’t get into a plane, you couldn’t get into a packed container, but nevertheless, it was rolled up and sent to London, for exhibition, and Turner almost certainly saw it, and was fascinated by the subject and the composition and thought, ‘how can I do something like that?’ And that combined, it seems, with reading reports of the wreck of a ship called the Amphitrite, which was a female convict ship on its way to Australia,

    Sam Willis

    And would have left from just down the road here, I discovered recently.

    David Blayney Brown

    Very probably it did, because Millbank prison in those days, it was a convict prison. And at that time, it went sort of unisex later in the century, but at that time, it was exclusively female convicts. And so it’s very likely that those convicts, if not the ship itself, had set off originally, from here, from the basement of this very building. But the terrible thing about the Amphitrite was that it got involved in a dreadful storm off the French coast, and the ship was clearly breaking up and wrecking. And the French offered assistance from the shore, but the captain refused it because he said he was only authorised to land his convicts in New South Wales and he was afraid that if they were rescued, they would simply escape and run off into France.

    Sam Willis

    He didn’t want to be held responsible.

    David Blayney Brown

    He didn’t want to be responsible for that, so he let the shipwreck, and by a wonderful kind of natural justice, he was drowned himself, but so were a lot of the women and children,

    Sam Willis

    Only a handful of survivors; there were three or four?

    David Blayney Brown

    I think, three, actually, yes, not including him, not including the captain. But the cargo, if you can call it that, the passengers, were women and children. And all the figures in this painting are women and children. And so,

    Sam Willis

    So not a matter of women and children first, it’s women and children not at all.

    David Blayney Brown

    Women and children not at all. Women and children last, absolutely.

    Sam Willis

    So maritime safety is a theme he was certainly interested in.

    David Blayney Brown

    Maritime safety, because that plays into his broader sort of humanitarian awareness and sympathies, which meant that he was sympathetic to things like Greek independence from Ottoman Turkey. He was clearly sympathetic to the political reform movement in Britain at the time prior to the 1832 Reform Act. He was sympathetic to the slavery abolition movement, and there are other works in this room that play to those themes. But more broadly, I think he had these sort of, these concerns with things like safety at sea and pictures like this can be seen as protests against rather sort of intransigent and old-fashioned attitudes. And it’s possible that I suppose that if this is the Amphitrite, and it’s an idea, it’s a very compelling one, but there’s no proof, I mean, Turner never wrote a letter or anything saying, “I’m painting the Amphitrite”, but there are, we can’t find another case of a disaster involving exclusively women victims and their children at that time, so it very probably is. But did he not exhibit it because somebody said, well, that really is such a sort of contested subject, it might be better not to draw attention to it in an exhibition.

    Sam Willis

    There’s a fascinating story there, isn’t it?

    David Blayney Brown

    Or did he, was he just for some reason not satisfied with the way the picture was working out and just abandoned it short of finishing it? I mean, we don’t really know.

    Sam Willis

    The compositions similar to the Raft of the Medusa, isn’t it?

    David Blayney Brown

    Oh Absolutely, because it’s a kind of pyramid.

    Sam Willis

    Does that happen elsewhere in his work? Does he take compositions, does he,

    David Blayney Brown

    Not really, no. I mean

    Sam Willis

    I was surprised at that.

    David Blayney Brown

    He wasn’t, I mean, he was such an original artist, he tended not to sort of swipe other people’s compositions, particularly. But I think the reference to the Raft of the Medusa, because of its political context and its background and so on, may have been quite deliberate, and another way of drawing attention to where he was positioning himself as an artist with a moral and ethical perspective on recent and contemporary events. But whatever it is, it’s a wonderful thing. I mean, this extraordinary sky, and it used to be called ‘A Fire at Sea’, because some people think there are flames on the right-hand side, and (I don’t know whether they’re flames or flares) the ship may have been sending up flares. But whatever those things are, they sort of contribute to its drama and from like, sort of sublimity.

    Sam Willis

    It does glow, doesn’t it!

    David Blayney Brown

    It does glow. And it’s an extraordinarily powerful thing, and the way the waves seem to merge into the sky, and the clouds, and the waves kind of blend together.

    Sam Willis

    And that’s quite an amazing thing to achieve. As someone who’s so brilliant at painting clouds, and also so brilliant at painting the sea, he really does make bring them together doesn’t he.

    David Blayney Brown

    What he wasn’t brilliant at, and nobody’s ever pretended otherwise, was actually the painting of figures. And the figures here are quite sort of abstract, and they’re more sort of suggested than rendered in any great detail.

    Sam Willis

    Is that the reason it’s been suggested it was unfinished?

    David Blayney Brown

    Maybe, but I mean, I think you have to make allowances for Turner’s figures always; they’re slightly odd. But the more of them there are in a picture because this is very crowded, it matters less because you don’t get individual one’s kind of individualised in a way that you would have just two or three.

    Sam Willis

    Yeah, it’s very different to ‘The Battle of Trafalgar’, where you’ve got some very specifically, carefully, picked-out individuals, haven’t you?

    David Blayney Brown

    Yes,

    Sam Willis

    Whereas this is a mass of humanity.

    David Blayney Brown

    You know, they are to some extent, portraits, because when he painted ‘The Battle of Trafalgar’ it was after he had actually gone on board the Victory at Sheerness when she came back for repairs after Trafalgar, and some of the men, some of the crew, or the Marines and so on, were still on board, they hadn’t yet gone on shore leave, and so he was able to interview them and collect information and the little sketchbooks that we show here, not that particular page, but there are other pages, where there are little sort of sketch portraits of some of the people he met on board. And, that he identifies them by name, and he says that they have, “good legs”, “good teeth”, or sort of features like that, because

    Sam Willis

    I’d like to be remembered for good legs.

    David Blayney Brown

    Something’s that’s never gonna happen to me I’m afraid! Something that kind of shows that he had actually met them. But of course, with this – he had to imagine it all. But I think he imagines it kind of through the lens of Jericho. And the newspaper reports because the Amphitrite episode was quite widely reported.

    Sam Willis

    Yeah, and in great detail, as well. I think the press really

    David Blayney Brown

    Something that was a scandal. And he was very interested in kind of trying to find a new kind of standard of values in contemporary life, and particularly things like life-saving technologies at sea, which he paints over here.

    Sam Willis

    Let’s go through that because I’m absolutely fascinated by this.
    The second painting we look at is entitled ‘Snow Storm: Steamboat off a Harbours Mouth’, in 1842. It remains one of Turner’s most famous paintings. It’s smaller than the first painting ‘Disaster at Sea’, perhaps a metre and a half wide and a metre tall, it shows a steamboat in rough water in the center of the painting surrounded by an enclosing and catastrophic snowstorm. It’s a whorl of blues, greys, and whites, with the side-wheel paddle ship a black and ominous presence in the center, tilted from left to right; it’s a very unnatural angle, as it’s tossed by the waves. The sea, the clouds, the snow, and the rain swirl all around the ship, as one.
    Fascinating, I could talk to you for three days non-stop, I think. Right, let’s go through here then. So, what have we got? What are we looking at here?

    David Blayney Brown

    We’re looking at a steamboat in a snowstorm. off a harbour, presumably somewhere on the English coast. Turner says it’s off Harwich, in the title of the picture, but really who knows. And he says that the author, by which he presumably means himself as the artist, but we’ll come back to that because the use of the word author is quite suggestive because it might imply, he’s telling a story, rather than painting something that actually happened. But he said the author was in this storm the night the Ariel, left Harwich. But the trouble is nobody’s found any record of a steamboat, and it is a steamboat, of course, operating out of Harwich at the time that this would have been necessary for him to produce this picture; in other words, probably in 1839, 40, 41, something like that, there’s no record of a steamboat called the Ariel operating out of Harwich, and

    Sam Willis

    But he wants to place himself in the story, that’s what matters.

    David Blayney Brown

    He wants to place himself in the story, but at the same time perhaps give a clue that the story is a fantasy, because of course Ariel was a water sprite, and in Shakespeare’s Tempest Ariel promises to engender within the play something rich and strange, which is perhaps what Turner’s sort of offering up here.

    Sam Willis

    It’s certainly a rich and strange painting; it’s magnificent, isn’t it? So here he is fascinated with modern technology, as well as the natural world, all kind of combining.

    David Blayney Brown

    The other thing he claimed about this picture was that not only had he been on the boat during this storm, but that he had himself tied to the mast to witness it. And he said, “I did not expect to survive, but, if I did, I would have come back and painted it”. The trouble is, there are lots of stories about painters being tied to masts in storms and then coming back to paint them afterward. They go right back to Dutch 17th century painters, to Claude Jospeh Vernet in 18th century France. And

    Sam Willis

    I love that.

    David Blayney Brown

    So, I think one has to take all this with not one but several, quite big pinches of salt.

    Sam Willis

    Yeah, but if ever there was a painting created by someone who might have been tied to a mast this is pretty much it, isn’t it?

    David Blayney Brown

    It’s one of those stories that if it’s not true you want it to be true.

    Sam Willis

    Absolutely.

    David Blayney Brown

    But, and what’s so fascinating is that in the title, it kind of juxtaposes very precise sort of maritime technological terms like ‘going by the Lead in Shallow Water’, ‘going by the Lead’,

    Sam Willis

    Let’s just read this title now. So, it’s ‘Snow Storm: Steam-boat off a Harbours Mouth Making Signals in Shallow Water, and going by the Lead. The Author was in this Storm on the Night the “Ariel” left Harwich.’ Yeah.

    David Blayney Brown

    So of course the boat is in very shallow water. So, in order to try and make sure that it doesn’t run aground, it’s taking lead soundings to see what the depth is, which is a bit difficult to do actually, if you’re being chucked around in a storm of this kind of intensity. So that there’s this strange sort of clash between what sounds very plausible, ‘oh this has got to be true because it’s also detailed’, and then something that actually doesn’t add up. And that seems to kind of be a kind of, it’s creating a kind of mythology.

    Sam Willis

    It’s very playful, isn’t it? The whole kind of idea.

    David Blayney Brown

    But it’s also an autobiographical mythology. But it’s about, I suppose it’s about, trying to say to people, well, even if it wasn’t that, even if I wasn’t there, I know what these things look like, and you’ve got to believe that what I’m offering you here is a convincing depiction.

    Sam Willis

    Yeah. And the paddle ship there, that’s a crucial part of it all, it’s not a sailing ship he’s chosen to depict at all, is it?

    David Blayney Brown

    No, it’s a paddle steamer. So, it’s a new and rather more strongly built boat, but still vulnerable to storms. But I suppose the question is – it’s a huge, terrible storm, will it survive? Will it run aground? Will it break up? Will, it kind of beat its way through the storm? And all those are sort of left open as questions.

    Sam Willis

    I mean it’s fascinating having the paddleboat there, the steamboat because that leads us to this the painting over here. The extremely famous ‘The Fighting Temeraire’, and let’s wander over here…
    The third painting we’re looking at is Turner’s ‘The Fighting Temeraire’. It’s very difficult to do this painting justice in a few words. So, here’s a contemporary description; this is from William Thackeray, one of the most talented and influential authors and critics of his time: “The old Temeraire is dragged to her last home by a little spiteful, diabolical steamer. A mighty red sun amidst a host of flaring clouds sinks to rest on one side of the picture and illuminates a river that seems interminable, and a countless navy that fades away into such a wonderful distance as never was painted before. The little demon of a steamer is belching out a volume (why do I say a volume? not a 100 volumes could express it) of foul, lurid, red hot, malignant smoke, paddling furiously, and lashing up the water around it; while behind it (a cold grey moon looking down on it), slow, sad, and majestic, follows the brave old ship, with death, as it were, written upon her.” This, I mean, also says so much about Turner’s interest in modern technology, the modern maritime technology as well with that, what I think is a beautifully depicted paddle ship, towing the Temeraire.

    David Blayney Brown

    It isn’t, because the engines in the wrong place, the funnels’ in the wrong place. I mean, he’s put the funnel in front of the engine and towards the bowels, whereas in fact, the paddle-steamer engines were parallel with the paddlewheels, and the funnel was usually slightly towards the stern. So, but of course, he’s

    Sam Willis

    That would have messed with his composition, wouldn’t it?

    David Blayney Brown

    It would have messed with his composition. So, it would be far too close to the Temeraire, so he’s just kind of moved it. And when the engraver, who engraved this picture a few years later, corrected Turner’s mistake and put the funnel in the right place, Turner said “No, no, no, no, I want it there. I knew what I was doing. I want it put back where I put it in the first place, even if it’s wrong.” So yeah, I mean, it’s an imaginative work of art, he probably never witnessed this. People used to think he did, but I think now we think he didn’t, but that he read about it in the newspapers and thought, well, again, I mean, I wasn’t there, but I ought to have been, and this is just the kind of thing I ought to paint.

    Sam Willis

    But and it is his view of the modern technology. He was not against it necessarily. He was sort of supportive of these new steam engines and all of this new industrial revolution technology.

    David Blayney Brown

    Well, he certainly used steamboats all the time. And he went across to the Continent on them, he went down backward and forwards to Margate, and the south coast on them. I mean, he loved the speed, that you would get to where you were going in a matter of hours rather than days, and the fact that they kind of democratised travel was something that very much sort of plays into his way of thinking about the world, I think

    Sam Willis

    That’s interesting,

    David Blayney Brown

    But at the same time

    Sam Willis

    In that, in terms of being accessible to everyone?

    David Blayney Brown

    Yes, accessible, absolutely. But it’s not just about the steamboat is it? It’s as much about the old ship, the Temeraire. So, this is what’s so wonderful about the picture, I think, that it’s finely balanced. Its picture about transition; the old age of sail is coming to an end. And that’s sad in a way because this, the Temeraire hero ship of Trafalgar, and so on, a ship on which there had been a mutiny and in, I think it was 1801, don’t quote me, it was very early in the Napoleonic Wars anyway, and some of the crew aboard the Temeraire had mutinied because they didn’t want to be sent to the West Indies where they would likely get ill, or if they didn’t get disease they’d probably be attacked by the French, and so they mutinied, but although they swore that they were loyal to King and country, they were nevertheless, as mutineers, hung. And so there’s a tragic story behind the Temeraire, as well as the sort of heroic action where she was one of the key ships at Trafalgar. And

    Sam Willis

    He was obsessed I think about respecting history, respecting the past, and in that respect, it’s about, you know, what about the men who fought on her, how could we have treated them so badly and how could we treat her so badly?

    David Blayney Brown

    Yes, how can we, because of course, she was sold for the price of her timber, as old warships often were. And sent to the breakers, when in fact apart from the Victory which of course has survived, she was virtually the only one of the great Trafalgar ships that were still surviving in the late 1830s. And there was a feeling that more of these ships should have been preserved as a historical record and out of respect to the people who had served on them. But for the Navy it was all about the money and they just wanted the wood sold off, the timber sold off, and to plough the money back into commissioning new ships. So, this is about the past and the future and that of course, it plays out in the moon coming up the sun setting; everything in the picture is about time and transition.

    Sam Willis

    And it brings us up to this wonderful sketch here just to the right of ‘The Temeraire’. So, just hanging to the right of the Fighting Temeraire we have this, it’s a sketch, the ‘Steamer and Lightship; a study for ‘The Fighting Temeraire’; I’ve never seen this before. And

    David Blayney Brown

    Well, you probably wouldn’t have done unless you happen to go and see an exhibition at the historic dockyard in Chatham about three, four years ago now, for which we restored this because it used to be written off as a complete wreck. It was full of mold, it had holes in it, it was filthy, and thought to be un-exhibitable. But we thought, well, let’s have a go at seeing if we can restore it to a display and this is the result. I mean, it’s unfinished obviously. It’s not in perfect condition, but it’s perfectly legible. But what’s, and we know it’s Turner’s sketch for the Temeraire because he wrote on the back of it, if you flip it around you can see written in chalk in Turner’s hand on the back of the canvas, ‘First sketch for my Temeraire’, and then there’s a couple of lines of poetry, most of which are illegible, but there is one line that is readable and it says ‘The light blushed red at her disgrace’, which of course could either suggest the sunset that he ended up painting, in the disgrace, of course, is that of the Temeraire herself. It could either refer to the sunset, or it could refer to this, which is the Nore Lightship. And so, of course, here we are much further up the Thames, further towards Rotherhithe, where Beatson’s Breakers Yard was, but here we’re sort of halfway between, well, we are at the Nore, which is halfway between Sheerness and Southend basically, right to the, near the, mouth of the estuary, so completely different spot. And here is the lightship. You can just see a sort of ghostly shape here, which seems to have been some sort of little bit of painting that’s ultimately going to become the Temeraire. But then for some reason, he’s rubbed out, maybe because he thought, “well, actually I won’t put it that side, I’ll put it that side of the tug”. But you can see the broad outline of a larger ship, a sailing ship,

    Sam Willis

    Lurking behind what, the tug?

    David Blayney Brown

    And then you’ve got the steam tug, but with the wind in the different direction. And so the sort of change, the evolution that happens between this and that is actually quite considerable. But there is nevertheless that point of connection emotionally through the verses because he wrote different verse and showed it with the picture itself. So, he was already thinking of this as a poetic subject. And then of course in the finished picture, he got rid of the lightship, obviously, because he’s further upriver.

    Sam Willis

    But he’s brought it right into the heart of London.

    David Blayney Brown

    He seems to have adopted the idea of something like a buoy, which is floating in the water in the right foreground in the finished picture and is possibly this object here.

    Sam Willis

    He has a buoy in the foreground of another maritime painting.

    David Blayney Brown

    Yes, he does.

    Sam Willis

    I’m not sure, but I think that the key thing to realise here is that he’s bought it right into the heart of London. And it was big news, the Temeraire coming up.

    David Blayney Brown

    Absolutely.

    Sam Willis

    And that’s him, it’s embedding him in the modern world.

    David Blayney Brown

    Yes, yes. Well, a changing world, a world where the past is giving way to the future, which is what happens there. And, I mean, this was Turner’s favourite among all his paintings, he called it his darling, and he refused to sell it, and was determined that it would go into the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, of course, which is quite significant. And

    Sam Willis

    Not far from St. Paul’s. And if you want to go and see his tomb, then you can go up to St Paul’s, to find him next to Nelson. David, thank you so much for your time it’s been absolutely fascinating; I’d like to walk around here talking to you about all of these. Very good. Thank you.

    David Blayney Brown

    Thanks.

    Sam Willis

    Before we leave you, we have some important news, the November edition of the Mariner’s Mirror Journal is out with its usual mixture of fascinating articles relating to naval and maritime history. It’s been published since 1911, it’s recognised as the world’s leading journal of naval and maritime history. The content of the Mariner’s Mirror includes research into matters relating to seafaring and shipbuilding. It is among all nations, it is research into the language of the customs of the sea, into all other subjects of nautical interest. It ranges from archaeology and ethnography to naval tactics and administration, merchant seafaring, shipbuilding, and virtually anything that relates to humankind’s relationship with the sea. The articles in the journal this month, we have: ‘The Schlusselfeld Ship Model of 1503’ by Maik-Jens Springmann, ‘The Ronas Voe Incident, 1674’ by Frank Fox, ‘The Royal Navy’s Difficulties with Implementing Iron Water Tanks, about 1815 to 1840’ by Andy Plumbly, ‘Thomas Cave Childs: Pioneer chaplain to female emigrants and the Missions to Seamen’ by Robert W. H. Miller, and finally ‘We Do Not Want to Be Too Hard on the Norwegians’: Sterling balances and rebuilding the Norwegian merchant shipping fleet, 1945 to 1950′ by Hugh Murphy. There’s also all sorts of documents, notes, and a great number of book reviews. If this sounds just like what you’ve been waiting for, then please join the Society for Nautical Research @snr.org.uk. You don’t just get access to this volume; you get access to all of the volumes. It’s all online going back well over a century. We’ve got tonnes of fab material coming your way soon on this podcast as well. If you want to know what’s happening on a day-to-day basis follow our excursions into the great modern world of the maritime past. please follow us on our Facebook page where we’re logged on as the Society for Nautical Research, or on Twitter in our abbreviated name of @nauticalhistory. Well, that’s it for now guys, safe travels everyone, and thanks for listening.

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