This painting dating from late in Turner’s career shows the wreck of a boat being engulfed by waves, its ropes flailing like tentacles. The sails, which have come adrift, can be seen to the left, while the masts and bow of a larger vessel are silhouetted against the skyline. A group of figures huddle together at the back of the stricken vessel or possibly in a separate boat. The overwhelming sensation is of a combination of spray, mist, and wind through which only colors and forms are visible. The light source from the upper right of the canvas renders the sea in the lower left a deep, dark, terrifying green. Sea depictions run through Turner’s entire career, and in later marine scenes such as this, he produced dramatic images that are the embodiment of the sublime.
Oil on canvas
12 3/4 x 21 1/8 inches (32.5 x 53.8 cm)
National Museum Wales; Miss Margaret S.
Davies Bequest, 1963 (NMWA 509)
Courtesy American Federation of Arts