The Wreck of a transport ship

  • Creator: James Pyne, Joseph Mallord William Turner
  • Year: circa 1810
  • Location: United Kingdom

This work was acquired as a Turner, but it is now believed to be a copy of the large scale painting now in the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon, possibly by James Pyne. As a Romantic, Turner drew on the fate and trials of humanity, set against tumultuous sea and sky. In Wreck of a Transport Ship, the convict ship (which may have held military rather than civilian prisoners) has capsized, casting guards and prisoners alike to a watery fate. Heroically, local fishing boats risk danger to come to their aid, but at a time when most people were unable to swim, the loss of life when ships foundered was invariably very high. In his treatment of landscape, Turner was a master at conveying what Andrew Wilton describes as the ‘grandeur of the natural world in a language that is artificial and yet at the same time poetically true to observed life’. His marine paintings convey the sea in its every mood: sublimely grand and threatening, dissolving into a mist of opalescent light or other similarly spectacular atmospheric effects created by dense fog, sunrise or sunset.

The Wreck of a transport ship is available in the public domain via Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication .

Mackelvie Trust Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1956 | Source: Auckland Art Gallery

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