A Storm (Shipwreck); view of rough sea with a shipwreck in centre, where the passengers scramble on the deck as waves overturn the ship, jagged rocks in right foreground, mast of another ship visible, suggesting the rest of vessel now submerged, small rowing boat to left with rescued passengers. 1823 Watercolour
- Height: 434 millimetres
- Width: 632 millimetres
Inscription ContentInscribed: "J M W Turner RA"
The following is taken from K. Sloan, 'The Lloyd Bequest of Turner Watercolours', BMP, 1998, no. 25, p. 86:
There are at least three colour beginnings for this watercolour,¹ which does not seem to be based on an actual shipwreck and was painted for a series of 'Marine Views', another of W. B. Cooke's publishing projects that was never completed. It has been variously called 'A Storm', the title used in Cooke's exhibition and while in Windus's collection,² or 'Shipwreck', as it was described by a contemporary reviewer. It was known as 'Wreckers' during the entire time it was with the family of the banker Lewis Loyd, who lent it under this title to the 1857 Art Treasures exhibition in Manchester.
When R.W. Lloyd purchased the painting from Loyd's descendants in 1936, Sir Alec Martin sent him transcriptions of the advertisements and reviews this virtuoso perfomance in watercolour had attracted in 1823, including the following extract from an article in the 'Literary Gazette' (24 May 1823):
"Exhibition of Drawings by British Artists Soho Square. An addition has been made by Mr Cooke to this varied and attractive Exhibition, of two very spendid Drawings, by J.M.W. Turner RA in which the artist has depicted, with his usual ability, the powerful and sublime effect of a Shipwreck, contrasted with the quiet serenity of a Calm. . . . The chaotic & destructive character of the former is, we think, hurt by the interferance [sic] of vivid colour. How far a sudden burst of sunshine might light up a scene like this, and, as if in mockery to misery, tinge it with the gaudy hues of a fairy vision, we are not prepared to say . . ."
Certainly, everywhere one looks in the composition figures are being drawn towards disaster: the small boat in the foreground is about to be swamped by the weight of those clinging to its stern, but it is in any case ultimately doomed as it heads for the huge rock before it. Sunlight may fall on the cliffs in the centre, but only to illuminate the waves that crash over them, and there is no sign of beach, ship or shore to offer hope in the bright chalk cliffs in the distance on the left. We should recall, however, that shipwrecks were much more a part of life at this time, a symbol of the inevitable triumph of the power of nature. Seldom was hope an element in the background of scenes of shipwrecks, as it had been in Géricault's 'Raft of the Medusa' shown in London in 1820, where man rather than nature was the main subject.³ Perhaps the reviewer still had this painting in mind when writing of Turner's "mockery to misery", but in Turner's many paintings of shipwrecks nature was nearly always the main protagonist and hope was absent, except perhaps in redemption after death.
l. TB CCLXIII 371, 377, 379; see Warrell 1991, p, 29.
2. Shanes 1981 (68) and 1984a, p. 56.
3. See Boase 1959, p. 340.
British Atlas Lloyd PV
1823, W.B. Cooke (no number, companion to 'A Calm Surprise') 1857, Manchester, no.330 1959, 1960, BM 1966 Feb, BM, Turner Lloyd Bequest, no.18 1969 Feb, BM, Turner Lloyd Bequest, no.18 1975 BM, Turner in the BM, no.87 1998 May-Sept., BM, J.M.W.Turner: Lloyd Bequest, no.25
- Bequeathed by: Robert Wylie Lloyd
- Previous owner/ex-collection: Lewis Loyd (With Lloyd by 1857; by descent through his son, Lord Overbury, to F.E. Lloyd.)
- Previous owner/ex-collection: Benjamin Godfrey Windus (With B.G. Windus until at least 1840.)
- Previous owner/ex-collection: William Bernard Cooke (Commissioned by W.B. Cooke.)
- Previous owner/ex-collection: F E Lloyd (bt from his estate by Christie's for Robert Wylie Lloyd, December 1936, 2000 gns)
UNDER THE TERMS OF THE BEQUEST, NONE OF THE PRINTS OR DRAWINGS BEQUEATHED BY R. W. LLOYD MAY BE LENT OUTSIDE THE BRITISH MUSEUM (Registration Numbers 1958,0712.318 to 3149).
Prints & Drawings
The storm; view of rough sea with a shipwreck in centre, where the passengers scrambled on the deck as waves overturn the ship, jagged rocks in r foreground, mast of another ship visible, suggesting the rest of vessel now submerged, small rowing boat to l with rescued passengers. 1823 Watercolour
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Object reference number: PDB4991
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