abstracted image of clouds, rain and waves, with washes of grey and blue

A Storm at Sea, c. 1819-1831

J. M. W. Turner called sketches like this one “colour beginnings.” He would return to them, sometimes years later, to seek inspiration for his larger oil paintings.

The sight of a storm churning up a choppy, swelling sea surged straight into Turner’s heart. He recorded the scene—perhaps more accurately, the emotion—with his brushes and diluted colors. Though small and quickly executed, Storm at Sea embodies many of the qualities that made Turner a towering figure in British art. His ecstatic relationship with sublime nature is expressed through the deft brushstrokes that capture the changes of mood in the varying light of this turbulent scene.

A personal notation not meant for public view, Storm at Sea borders on pure abstraction; its open center evokes Turner’s spiritual interpretation of light. Far removed from the tightly executed, picturesque works that typified British watercolors of the early 19th century, Storm at Sea presages much that became central to art produced by later generations.

Details
Title
A Storm at Sea
Artist Life
1775–1851
Role
Artist
Accession Number
2014.28
Provenance
Arthur James Balfour, 1st Earl of Balfour (1848-1930, London and Whittingehame House, East Lothian); by descent until 1986; sold to private collector (1986-2008); sold Christie's, London, June 4, 2008, lot 27; to Wyld; [W/S Wyld Fine Art, London; 2008-d. 2011; his sale, Christie's, London, July 10, 2012, no. 90; to Ongpin; [Stephen Ongpin Fine Art, London, 2012-2014; sold to MIA]
Curator Approved

This record has been reviewed by our curatorial staff but may be incomplete. These records are frequently revised and enhanced. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email collectionsdata@artsmia.org.

Does something look wrong with this image? Let us know

Zoom in on the left to the detail you'd like to save. Click 'Save detail' and wait until the image updates. Right click the image to 'save image as' or copy link, or click the image to open in a new tab.

abstracted image of clouds, rain and waves, with washes of grey and blue