25.1 cm x 37.4 cm (9 7/8 in. x 14 3/4 in.)
Joseph Mallord William Turner
(London, 1775 - 1851, Chelsea, England)
Medium and Support:
Mezzotint on applied India paper
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Purchase through the generosity of the Still Water Foundation, 1996
There are few British landscape artists of greater renown than J. M. W. Turner. His constant experimentation with the genre in painting, watercolor, and engraving had a significant impact on the early development of modern art in the nineteenth century. The Liber Studiorum was a collection of prints after Turner’s compositions, forming an encyclopedia of landscape types. This print is one of a series of twelve that Turner produced as Sequels to the Liber Studiorum, usually referred to as the “Little Liber.” In these plates Turner used mezzotint to translate the tonality and painterly qualities of a watercolor drawing. Never published, the prints remained the artist’s best-kept secret, their existence revealed upon the discovery of the plates in his studio after his death. This is one of only four known impressions of this state. Turner may have been inspired to take up mezzotint after John Martin’s very successful illustrations on John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1825), a proof set of which the Blanton Museum also owns. Turner chose a dramatic moonlit scene for Shields Lighthouse to explore the effects of light reflecting off water. He expressed the quintessentially Romantic theme of the antithesis of man and nature by juxtaposing the pale beam from the lighthouse with the full moon, the masts of the ship appearing ghostlike in the eerie shadows.