The Fighting Temeraire (1839)
oil on canvas, 90.7 x 121.6 cm
Turner Bequest 1856
Talk and Draw Events run on a weekly basis at the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square in London.
The format is:
- listen to a short talk, then
- make your own response by making a drawing with the materials provided.
These are very popular events and I often see very large groups in the Gallery all busily engaged with drawing a painting.
One of the ones coming up is the very famous and popular painting of The Fighting Temeraire by JMW Turner.
I was pleased to see that National Gallery website picks up on a point which I'd worked out a long time ago ie that the ship is moving in the wrong direction!. It came up to Rotherhithe (just across the River Thames from where I live) to be broken up and consequently the sunset ought to be in front of it (in the west) and not behind it (in the east) as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
Artistic licence anyone?
This is the National Gallery's description of the painting.
The 98-gun ship 'Temeraire' played a distinguished role in Nelson's victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, after which she was known as the 'Fighting Temeraire'. The ship remained in service until 1838 when she was decommissioned and towed from Sheerness to Rotherhithe to be broken up.Another fact that is interesting is that this one of the very few Turner paintings which formed part of the Turner Bequest which are not in Tate Britain (where the great bulk of the Turner Bequest is housed).
The painting was thought to represent the decline of Britain's naval power. The 'Temeraire' is shown travelling east, away from the sunset, even though Rotherhithe is west of Sheerness, but Turner's main concern was to evoke a sense of loss, rather than to give an exact recording of the event. The spectacularly colourful setting of the sun draws a parallel with the passing of the old warship. By contrast the new steam-powered tug is smaller and more prosaic.
Turner was in his sixties when he painted 'The Fighting Temeraire'. It shows his mastery of painting techniques to suggest sea and sky. Paint laid on thickly is used to render the sun's rays striking the clouds. By contrast, the ship's rigging is meticulously painted.
National Gallery - The Fighting Temeraire
If you're interested in Turner and his art see J.M.W. Turner - Resources for Art Lovers for more information.