Margate Harbour

WAG 312


This atmospheric oil painting was bought by George Holt (1825 – 1896) in 1872. His collection, and the family home Sudley House, were left to the city of Liverpool by his daughter Emma in 1944. The painting is characteristic of Turner’s late style with its indistinct forms and emphasis on the exploration of light. Turner’s critics described works like these as ‘paintings of nothing’. The Holts taste for Turner’s late work was unusual for the time. George Holt’s sister Anne noted in the family diary in March 1872 that her brother had ‘purchased a nice small Turner at Mr. Leyland’s sale’. The work concerned was almost certainly this atmospheric late canvas, whose subject is probably emigrants embarking for new lives abroad. Frederick Leyland of the Liverpool shipping firm Bibby’s, who lived at Speke Hall 1867-77, was a keen collector. A friend of Rossetti and Whistler, he periodically downsized his collection to finance further buying. Holt remained keenly interested in the collecting of local rivals throughout his life, and this purchase of a work he saw at Leyland’s was typical.